Meet a photographer: Simon Garnier

Simon Garnier in a shutter click 

Simon Garnier. Born on 1-May-1981 and lives in the USA.

Main camera: Panasonic Lumix GF1.
Main lens: Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F/1.7 ASPH  “Pancake”.
Post-processing software: Adobe Lightroom.
Favorite lighting: Natural lighting, no flash. I try to avoid strong lights, because it is often hard to get good exposition and nice colors in these conditions, and also because it is very tiring for the eyes.
Favorite time to make photographs: I like soft lights during early morning and late afternoon, shaded areas and cloudy days.
Favorite season to make photographs: I don’t have a favorite season to take pictures. Cold winters and hot summers can be challenging for the body, but they also provide endless opportunities to capture people in extreme moments.
Favorite mood while making photographs: I’m always happy when I take pictures, but it’s not obvious for the people around me as I become very focused when I shoot.
Favorite music while making photographs: The music of the streets: the sound of the car engines, the screams of the kids playing, the steps of the people on the sidewalk, etc…
Favorite photographer: There isn’t one in particular. I take in with what I find on the Internet mostly. One day it will be a retrospective on Henri Cartier Bresson’s work, the day after the gallery of some unknown, yet talented, photographer on Flickr, Tumblr or some other website. But if I had to recommend one in particular, I would probably suggest people to have a look at Gérald Verdon’s work (here on Flickr for instance: He is a gentleman and his talent makes me seriously jealous 🙂
Favorite quote related to photography: “Compose and wait” – Sam Abell

Simon Garnier, street photographer

Why photography? What do you hope to achieve?
I’m a visual animal, I have always been attracted toward pictures. They are able to trigger emotions in me more than anything else. But I have always been a bit clumsy. Painting fine details for instance is a real challenge for my shaking hands. Thus, photography was the natural choice for me. I’m at a very early stage of my artistic development, so I don’t have a very good picture yet of what big project I’d like to achieve in photography. Last year, I took a big step by deciding to commit myself mostly to street photography. One reason is that I have always been interested in documentary photography and photojournalism, and it seems to me that street photography is the perfect entry point to this world.

What do you do when you are not making photographs?
I am a scientist. I specialized in the study of collective behaviors. I study everything that can form a crowd, a school, a swarm, a flock or a herd. Think of ant colonies, football fans or legions of tiny robots invading the solar system, and you will have a pretty good idea of what I am interested in my research.

Which of your photographs do you consider is a reflection of loneliness? What attracted you to it?

Alone in the dark

New York is an enormous city where people move fast and rarely stop for the outcasts, the pariahs, the nuts and all this invisible people who are the soul of the city. This woman was sitting alone next to an empty chair and grumbling things that nobody else could understand besides herself. She was the perfect representative of these people we unconsciously ignore because they don’t belong to our fast paced world. This picture has been taken on Broadway, one of the busiest street in Manhattan. I had to wait between two waves of people to make sure I would photograph her without anybody else around.

Which of your photographs had a strong impact on you? What’s the story?

The wait

This picture was taken in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2007. It was my first real street photograph, even if at that time, I had no idea whatsoever about street photography. It always had a special meaning for me though, maybe a sort of premonition about what I really wanted to do with photography.

What style attracts you most? Why?
Street Photography. The constant discovery and the feeling that I understand something about the place where I am and the people I meet there because I have been able to capture this fraction of a second where everything falls in place perfectly and they look magical.

How far do you go with post processing?
I try to keep post-processing as minimal as possible in terms of time consumption. I use 3 Lightroom presets of my own that correct the white balance, the contrast and the luminosity in various ways and I choose between them as a function of characteristics of the raw picture. I often add some vignetting when I want to lead the eye of the viewer to a particular point in the image. As much as possible, I try to take into account the future addition of the vignetting when I take the picture.

What motivates you to grab the camera and go make a photograph?
In my everyday job, as a scientist, I try to understand the emergence of collective patterns at large scales, that is at scales that cannot be directly perceived by the individual (when you walk in a busy street for instance, you are not aware of everything happening around you). As a street photographer however, I try to focus on individual moments of candid beauty that stand out from the urban crowd. I will look for people who contrast from other people around, and for situations that diverge from the usual (to not say normal) behavior of the surrounding crowd.

Tell us about a weird thing you do or a weird habit you have before a photoshoot:
I play frenetically the solitaire on my iPad in the train to New York. It helps me relax and forget about my problems.

Describe your feelings during a photoshoot:
I’m very focused when I take pictures, I don’t really have much feelings. I try to evacuate all my emotions to be able to get as much information as possible from my environment. The feelings come several days later when I decide it is time to have a first look at my picture on my computer screen. And they can be very strong when a picture turn out good.

Ethically, what are your limits in photography?
The most important thing to remember is that you owe a lot of respect to the people you’re taking a picture of. They create and execute the story, your role is to capture it in the more meaningful way. It’s like an untold collaboration. For this reason, I don’t try to hide and if people have questions or concerns, I always take the time to answer and to explain what I do. 

3 tips / advice to other photographers:

  1. Be technically ready. There is nothing worse than missing a picture because the camera was still in the bag, or off, or set up with unsuitable parameters.
  2. Be mentally ready. Street photography is practiced live. There is no possibility to stop the action, to make adjustments to the scene or to repeat the shot until it is perfect. Concentration is therefore required to anticipate events and to react on time.
  3. Be perceptually ready. Observation is the key for a good street photograph. I spend maybe 99% of my time looking around me and only 1% looking through my viewfinder. The viewfinder is a tool to compose a picture, but it is too restrictive to help me have a good idea of what is happening or about to happen around me.
  4. I will add Sam Abell’s quote : “Compose and wait”; it’s the best piece of advice I have received this year.


  1. La salamandre (October-November 2011)
  2. Our Town Downtown (September 15, 2011, cover)
  3. Viewfinder Magazine (August 2011, page 35)
  4. (June 19, 2011 and August 3, 2011)
  5. (August 5, 2011 and August 8, 2011)

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