François Aubret

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Who are you?

I am a French minimalist photographer currently living in Los Angeles. I go out looking for compelling “Graphic Encounters,” document it with my camera, and share my finds with people. But let’s backtrack a little bit to understand my journey.

I graduated from a Masters Degree in Environmental Design in Shanghai six years ago. Right after graduation I found a job there for four years and was mostly designing museums and exhibitions. It was awesome, but the life of a small award-winning design studio in China is draining! Two years ago I moved to Los Angeles where I joined the Getty Museum’s design team. It is the dream of every exhibition designer, but something was missing and I wasn’t as happy as I could be. After a year working there I realized that I wanted to use my creativity towards my own artistic practice. I needed to become an artist.

What do you want?

It can sound cheesy, but the ultimate goal for me is to be happy. Understanding what works for me helps me make the right decisions in both life and professional environments. A good work and life balance is something I am constantly working on, as I have seen how any imbalance can affect confidence. Without confidence there is no moving forward!

Why photography?

First of all, I am a very visual person and a passionate observer. Images talk to me better than words, so, a year ago, photography became a natural option to investigate deeper.

While working in parallel on my self-development I also realized that photography was the intersection of different elements that all make me very happy! It is a creative discipline, and I need that to be fulfilled. It requires me to be outside and enjoy the present moment (perfect because I wanted to spend less time on a screen). It is fun, and I feel like a kid playing on a treasure hunt every time. Finally, it allows me to be flexible, and is complementary to the set of skills I acquired during my career as a designer.

What gear do you use?

I am using a Canon DSLR, but the gear is just a detail to me. It doesn’t matter if it has been taken on professional equipment, an iPhone, or a disposable camera. All I am looking for when I look at a photograph (or art in general) is a visceral reaction. The creative vision, the composition, or the emotions conveyed, are way more important. Like a magic trick, I don’t want to know how it has been made. All I want to remember is the amazement.

Any interests, hobbies, or passions outside of photography?

I am a big fan of cooking! What a surprise coming from a French guy, right? I am often very nostalgic for my years spent in China, so I am having a lot of fun lately making all my favorite dishes. It is relaxing and a great source of happiness for me.

I also love yoga and meditation. Not just for the physical activity, but also because it clears my mind and keeps me focused. I always have really good realizations or creative ideas during a session.

Music, movies, books, TV, games. What are some of your favorites? Any recommendations?

I am constantly listening to music. One of my favorites lately is the Australian electronic duo Kllo. It’s good in every situation, whether you want to chill, work, or dance. I also absolutely love Paradis and Haute.

Like my mentor did to me, I would also recommend you read two times A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. It is a very quick read that explains the creative process and how not to bang your head against a wall to get ideas. I am very much after these moments now!

How did you first get into photography?

I’m sure like a lot of other photographers, I started taking photos with my phone and posting them on Instagram. I was mostly capturing nice design or architectural details that I was coming across on my travels. Like a visual diary, it was a way for me to archive what I was seeing and doing. It was on this platform that I discovered minimal photography and decided to take it to the next level.

Minimal photography is everything I love: a simple and clean mix of art and design with a touch of humor. There’s something whimsical in turning the most mundane daily life scene into a graphic artwork. It is also a great philosophy of life to be looking for the beauty in everything.

Who or what is inspiring you?

I am fascinated by man-altered landscapes and their relationship with nature. I also love the emptiness in urban environments. Los Angeles is perfect for that. During the past seventy years the city has considerably developed around cars. The city is huge and surrounded by mountains; the streets are wide and nobody is walking, which is visually very unique and intriguing.

I also love to play with the fine line between abstraction and reality. This is how the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the mundane becomes comical and sometimes quirky.

What's one thing about yourself that would surprise most people?

I am an organization freak. I can’t work and be creative in a messy and loud environment. I love when everything is in order, it gives me mental space to think.

Got any words of wisdom or a favorite quote?

Enjoy the process, have fun, and don’t be afraid! Fear is made-up.

Any other photographers you think people should check out?

There are so many, but I would say Robin Ek for the diversity of his work and his great color sensibility. Bastian Richter for his clean compositions and the European feel of his mundane photos.  Jon Setter for the bright colors and his ability to abstract. I also love Sinziana Velicescu, Andrea Clarke, Jo Kalinowski, Mandy Briggs, Monty Kaplan, Sam Johnson, and Collin Pollard.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for chatting with me and your interest in my work. It means a lot to me!

More of 

François Aubret