Who are you Simon?
I am half French, half English and was born in France 57 years ago. I come from a small town and studied to become a vet. I was a sailing instructor in southern Brittany at the age of 16 and spent my military service as a sailing instructor in Tahiti. There are worst places to be sent I must admit….
I opened a Gallery in France in the mid seventies and came to New York in 1983 for a week to help one of my artists find a gallery here, I fell in love with the energy of the city and have been living here ever since.
I met Jeanne Claude and Christo on my second week here and started working with them on their projects; it was a life changing experience.
Why did you choose to become a photographer?
Photography was always a passion for me, I got my first camera, a Kodak Brownie when I was 7 and fell in love with the magic it created. I started a photo club when I was at school and was shooting everything I could. After failing to get into a photo school, I spend the next 20 years away from photography.
In 1983, I discovered the New York art scene and that nourished my vision.
I was fascinated by the geometry of the urban landscape and that is when I had the urge to get back to photography.
I was lucky enough to join the Howard Greenberg Gallery back in 1997 and have focused my energy on photography since.
Your Nude series is gorgeous, tell us a bit about this project.
The nude series started in Death Valley. I loved the abstract qualities of the sand dunes and wanted to bring a nude in the landscape. It was a challenge when you know the work of artists like Edward Weston and others who have mastered it. I could shoot only one hour at sunrise and one at sunset.
While shooting, I realized that the body could become the landscape itself.
I came back to New York and started shooting in the studio so I could control the light and thereby the form. The body became the landscape.
Would you consider yourself a landscape photographer?
I am not sure if I really fit in that category. The work is more about playing with shape, light and the negative space that has a huge place in my photographs.
When you look at my work, you will notice the importance of the black.
How much time do you spend in the dark room?
I spend a lot of time in the darkroom, sometimes weeks in a row. I am still fascinated by the magic of the process and find that I need to spend many days to control the outcome precisely.
Do you have a dream project?
Dreams are meant to be pursued every new project is a dream project before it happens. It is at first an idea, then images are visualized and from that point on work makes them happen. The result is sometimes even a little different from the initial dreamed images; it is nearly always better as the work grows on itself.
Right now my dream project is the “Waterfalls” series.
Why did you decide to shoot NY? What does the city bring to you?
New York was a love story at first sight, living downtown when I first arrived, I was mesmerized by the tall buildings, narrow streets and by the shadows projected by these buildings, creating these wonderful geometric patterns.
I must have looked strange, I was walking the streets looking up and just enjoying the playfulness of the angular shapes. That has never changed.
Do you have a secret place in the New York?
If I tell you it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, but seriously I am always amazed by something that I hadn’t noticed before. The city changes so much depending on the time of day, the light and my perception of the city also changes with my mood. The secret is to get lost away from our usual paths.
What about the most beautiful views of the city?
Downtown around Wall Street, it is such a complex web of narrow streets.
What are your favorite things to do here?
I love having friends over for dinner, shopping at Di Palo’s, riding a bike in the city and Governor’s Island (a haven of peace and just a small boat ride away) playing tennis under the Williamsburg bridge, eating at “Minetta Tavern” or at “Antonucci’s”, having a small bite at “Blue Ribbon Bar” or a drink at the “Raines Law Room” and so much more…..
The “Waterfalls” series is not finished, so I will be taking more long treks in the wilderness looking for the perfect ones.
I also have a show opening at the Jackson Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta on March 26th, where they will show the Nudes and for the first time some of the Waterfalls.
For more info visit Simon Chaput’s website and his facebook fan page
Di Palo’s: 200 Grand St.
Minetta Tavern: 113 MacDougal St.
Antonucci’s: 170 East 81 St.
Blue Ribbon Bar: 34 Downing St.
Raines Law Room: 48 W 17th St.