Arnaud Pyvka welcomes us in his elegant Parisian apartment, where iconic design pieces sit side by side with his favourite books and objects, to tell us about his creative approach and his passion for design and contemporary art.
To begin, can you introduce yourself?
I was editor of a fashion magazine that I created, Double Magazine, as well, I was an artistic director, but in 2011, I decided to stop and devote myself solely to photography. At the time, I only had a gallery exhibition, but industry people came to get me to work with them, especially in the United States for advertising. So from my personal work exhibiting in a gallery, I have received big advertising projects for Samsung, Play Station and Bergdorf Goodman.
And your personal work?
For me photography is an alphabet. In my photos, I put words. At the same time it's my memory, my perception of the world and a way for me to rewrite things when I make an exhibition or a book.
Today how do you divide your time between the two?
In general it's about 90% on commercial work (laughs) but in the last 6 months I've been much more focused on my personal work. Which gives results elsewhere because they are sales of prints, orders for collectors.
How would you define your photographic style?
It's very difficult to talk about it, people say that I have a bourgeois style through the topics that are chosen. When I say "bourgeois", it is because there is a kind of levity, a detachment. I photograph my children, my wife, my friends who find themselves in an exhibition and who do not know it (laughs) that sort of thing. So it's very personal, "bourgeois" in that sense.
You never know where we are in my photos, we could be everywhere in the world. There is no desire to characterise the place. But on the other hand, when I am asked to be in a place, I am able to make it really recognisable.
I will not go to Afghanistan to photograph the Taliban or that kind of thing. I have been offered and for the moment I refused it because it is something that requires total immersion for 1 year or 2 years.
Who are your favourite photographers? Who made you want to do this job?
I wanted to do this job because my father was an amateur photographer, and I quickly hid behind a camera to discover the world. But of course, I've identified some that are important to me. Many of these photographers have worked for Double magazine. There is only one who has not worked for the magazine and that is Wolfgang Tillmans, who is for me the most important. He is the one who, in my opinion, has transformed contemporary photography.
But there are also people like Araki, William Eggleston, Juergen Teller, there are many who are important to me hence my large library of photography books.
I see you have a lot of vintage designer furniture. Is it a passion?
Objects are what describe us. So it's good to be surrounded by them. I browse a lot. On the Internet, during my travels, at flea markets and antique shops.
Your apartment is full of art, are you a collector?
Indeed it is one of my other passions. I particularly like the Creveoeur gallery. They had the courage to take a big space and have an amazing pool of artists. This gallery is owned and run by people who are 40 years old, which is young in the world of contemporary art, and they know how to take risks.
Tell us about when you discovered USM
I discovered USM in Switzerland 25 years ago. In a ski resort! It was blue gentian and yellow furniture that I found beautiful. I do not remember the name of the ski resort, but I remember the furniture perfectly!
Twenty-five years ago it was very difficult to find a USM distributor in France. Still, two months later, my first piece of furniture was ordered. It was a piece of furniture for my workplace, an office I shared with a friend. Today, this friend must own close to 30 pieces of USM furniture!
Beyond the modularity of USM what do you like about this furniture?
I like its sobriety. The fact that its appearance has not changed in 50 years. It is this sobriety that is very effective. And the fact that we can play with all elements.
And the colours?
In this apartment I have black and white. Because when we choose colours like yellow, blue it must be well married in the place. And as I know that it will change, it must remain simple to be able to readapt elsewhere. I have again ordered black and white, but also yellow this time.
Is Paris the place to be for photography?
No, Paris is a village. If you want dynamism, Paris is not "the place to be". What goes with the notion of village is a kind of nonchalance. And Paris is a rather nonchalant city, where people take the time to live. It's not the place where the greatest things happen, but in any case it is a pleasant place to live. But there are still many things that have evolved in Paris over the recent years. Young people in particular are very dynamic, and the Crevecoeur gallery is an example.
Nevertheless, Paris is not a city for photography. For that, it's Los Angeles. Because photography needs collectors to exist. You need people who buy. This is the case in the United States and this is why many great American artists have been able to exist.
As an example, I went on a trip to the United States to show my personal work, and I found myself doing 10 advertising campaigns in the year that followed. Americans do not have the same risk culture.
In France, there is an aversion to risk. To build a magazine like I did, for example, is not the done thing in French culture. Although I am still co-publisher and co-owner of the magazine, I no longer play any role on the editorial line. In reflection, a magazine takes a lot of time mentally. I ended up looking at life only through the prism of Double Magazine. It was obsessive and from time to time with obsession you have to know when to move on (laughs).
We warmly thank Arnaud Pyvka for his hospitality and our exciting exchanges. You can follow his work on Instagram @arnaudpyvka.
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