Chloe Kerleroux Talks About Photography, Ancestral Cultures, Authenticity and More

by Rubén Palma
Share this

Chloe Kerleroux, is a self-taught Breton photographer based in Paris. From Tepito to Mexico City, via the gypsy villages of Perushtitsa in Bulgaria and the Gipsy horse fair in Appleby to the Creole cowboys of Louisiana, she is interested in underrepresented cultures and their ethnic, religious, linguistic, territorial, and tribal specificities. Through her images, Chloe works to reflect on collective memories and strong cultures.

Hi Chloe! It’s a pleasure to sit down with you. Ok, first question. When did you first start out taking pictures?

Since my first holy communion, I was about 10 or 11 years old and I received the best present ever. A camcorder. I always created some scenarios and situations, and soon after that, I got a camera as well. In my childhood bedroom, I’ve got drawers and drawers full of pictures of me and my friends and all the proofs of our stupidities. But, I started to take pictures of people far from me, when I was in Thailand, on the border of Burma, because I was alone for the first time in the middle of a mountain. I had to get out of my comfort zone, but thank god this new world opened for me, in this Birman refuge in 2014.

The neighborhoods where you shoot some of your photos seem to be in some pretty rough neighborhoods. Do you know some of the people, or how do you get so close?

I always work months in advance to be introduced and to be sure that my arrival is possible. This is actually the most tedious, relentless, difficult and fragile part. But it’s impossible for me to show up with my tourist face and my camera like that, it’s very aggressive and intrusive. Of course we don’t always anticipate everything from so far away, and sometimes I get very surprised, but that’s part of the “game”.

With that in mind, what made you want to document people on the streets and various subcultures?

I’m fascinated by the way certain ancestral cultures manage to survive the pressures of the modern world, such as social, environmental, technological or political ways. Sometimes on the brink of disappearance, they are given unexpected vigor by a new generation who have made them their own, an unprecedented blend of cultures. This key moment where old world fusion with the modern one is for me so interesting and authentic. Authenticity is the start of all my research, no lies, no cheating, and no faking, is the most important for me.

What makes photography your preferred medium of expressing yourself?

Firstly, the fact that time freezes, and the reality that I was lucky enough to witness it I think. There is perhaps a selfish and opportunistic side to being proud of having proof of having lived and shared this precious moment. These memories are perhaps a bit like a “trophy” unconsciously. Nothing is more real for me than a photo or a video for memory, but unfortunately, I can’t do both. The photo wins because perhaps it leaves a little more room for interpretation, and above all, it becomes art immediately. There is of course retouching sometimes but we don’t really need time to appreciate it as a spectator, it’s received in a flash, unlike video. Regarding my love for the work of other photographers, I admire the audacity of being so close to subjects and revealing them or enhancing a moment that seems banal off-camera. I don’t have enough perspective on my own work, but that’s what drives me, trying to make an ordinary situation extraordinary, to show how special the daily life of people can be. Of course, you must not lie to yourself, it’s a bit easier when the people you meet have a strong and rich culture.

You talked a little bit about this earlier, but how important is authenticity in your work?

Authenticity is everything to me, the origin of my research, motivation, and inspiration. But, be careful, my definition of authenticity is completely subjective. Anyway, of course I think a picture can be good without authenticity, for me its just different work. For example, I m totally in love with the work of Lou escobar or Thalia Gochez, because the staging is exceptional and the subjects are strong, and I strongly believe it’s because they have a real energy, it’s not fake. But for me there isn’t the same spontaneity as street photography, because there is an intervention of many people like makeup artist.. for example. So many people are involved, and more control than just a one to one, where we have to adapt ourself and surfing on the wave . To be honest, Its really difficult to answer because I m not sure about my own definition, especially as I work with my instinct. I’m not used to intellectualizing, but thank you, its interesting to think about, I have to deep dive it more one day.

So what inspires and motivates you?

About my inspirations, it’s difficult to answer because everything is an inspiration to me, I’m a Gemini lol… a movie, a documentary, a picture, an atmosphere, the universe of someone, the deep passion of someone, a song, a clip, a face, a link between someone and someone else or something else, an energy… The most important and the base for me is to be surprised, when in my head I ear “wow, wtf is that? I need to know more and organize myself to go and discover it with my own eyes. I don’t care how far and complicated it is. I m not patient in my life, and because of that , I can take months and months or years to succeed.

Other than the camera and lens. Are there any essential items that you always bring with you when shooting?

Nuroflash for migraine, coca cola, some candy for low blood pressure, and my mother’s scarf on my head.

Anybody you look up to?

So many people, but it’s mainly a function of the projects. First names who comes to mind are Mary Ellen Mark, Boogie, Stacy Kranitz, Sam Alexander Gregg… But there are many more.

Related Articles