Fred Mortagne is unique. He has the eye and the imagination to take visual images you will never forget. This Frenchman from Lyon, is probably best known for his progressive filming techniques (he even had a particular angle, the rolling long lens shot named after him, the Fredangle, how many of today’s filmers can claim that?!), but when he started taking pictures too, the praise was doubled.
A series of photos and portraits Fred took, which were later used for a Flip Skateboards catalogue, earned him the first prize in a prestigeous photography competition despite only having started shooting film for a year. It’s things like that which qualify Fred for a Triple Shot with Crossfire. Bon appetit!
How long have you been a photographer Fred?
About 4 years. I started to take it more seriously in late 2002. I was only messing around before.
How did the filming crossover get you into photography?
When you film so much great skateboarding, in constantly different places, and with so much history and lifestyle going down along the way, you start thinking that you are wasting some amazing opportunities… While filming, I’ve always pictured photographs that could have been shot, that I never filmed, because they would have had an interest only as a photograph. And when I see that the photographer present at the time doesn’t even shoot it, so it’s a complete waste, so I decided to pick up a camera, and do it myself. That’s really the process that went through my mind that pushed me into photography.
Your inspiration shot here is a classic. What effect did it have on you?
I don’t think some photographs inspired me to start shooting myself, not like video footage (I saw) when I was a kid which really inspired me to start making videos. On my website I put a little montage of some clips that really inspired me, before I even started to film. But this photograph shot by Dan Sturt is the most memorable one from back when I was a kid. He’s definitely the most influential photographer to me. He’s got a crazy sense of framing and angles.
What were the best and worst bits of advice anyone gave you in regards to photography?
All I can think of is a compliment I got from Mike O’Meally, who told me that, not only my photography is original, it’s got a recognizable style. This was great to hear.
Have you ever felt bad about taking a photo? If so, which one?
I have a hard time shooting pics of strangers in the street, like if I’m close to them, if they notice me. I would love to have the power of being invisible when I need to.
What’s the relationship like between a photographer and filmer?
There’s usually a great mutual respect, and there are rarely any problems, because we work things out together. But no matter what, I hate filming when there’s a photographer around, and vice versa, because it limits my work, my angles, my options. It sucks to have to deal with a situation, where you know you are not shooting from the best angle… this kills me, really. Makes me sad.
Please tell us why you have picked your fave skate shot you have submitted, it’s beautiful.
It’s one of my most powerful photographs, and it’s typical of the way I’ve been shooting skate photography. It’s always on the side of my filming duties, and this was no exception. It was during a Cliché tour in the north of France, we ended up at this amazing architectural place, designed by Brazilian guy Oscar Niemeyer, whose works are very famous around the world. The place was insane, so good for skating, filming and shooting pictures. I want to go back.
So we’ve been filming, but when we were leaving, I spotted this thing. I asked Lucas Puig to do something quick, we only had a few minutes…like always. That’s why most tricks in my pictures are easy ones, I can always shoot when the session is done, within 5 minutes… I’m stoked about this pic, like some other ones of my “classics”, because 2 or 3 photographers were there at the same time, with some other teams, for a long time too, but no one thought of it… I just pictured it, and we made it happen. That’s a good feeling.
What main advice would you give to upcoming skate photographers?
Have fun, don’t run after money and develop your own style.
Are there ways of getting better/free equipment as you continue to grow or do you have to fund everything yourself?
I never have any hook ups, I’m too antisocial.
Is the work of a skate photographer well paid? Do you get by in life with this income alone?
I guess it can be good, but you got to shoot a lot. Ideal is to get employed by a mag or a company I suppose, if you really worry about money… But I don’t, so instead of selling my pics, I just shoot, and keep them in the cellar, like good wine!!
Does music ever inspire your photography? What music artists can you not leave for a tour without?
Definitely. I like listening to music when I shoot photos, not so much for skating, but for other shit, like when I wander around in a city. I like to put on some freaky ambient music, to create some weird atmosphere… Godspeed You Black Emperor! is one of my favorite band to have to go through my ears. And “Koyaanisqatsi” soundtrack by Philip Glass, is just amazing. Whoever hasn’t seen that movie, I highly recommend it.
Please tell us about your non skate shot you have submitted and the story behind it.
That’s one of my first pics ever taken in 2001, in Osaka, Japan. I had just purchased my camera, at the time I wasn’t deep in photography at all, I was more like a tourist who snap shots to have memories… On the contact sheet, that’s the only cliché of that place, I shot only once, whereas if I would be there now, I would shot so many times, to have it right. It’s an important picture for me because it made me realize I was able to come up with some very cool pics.
Funny story about it, is that when I went to Japan again, I was flipping through TWS Japan, and saw that photo, I mean, not this one, but the same exact place, pretty much same framing. For a second I though it was mine, but then the lady on the bike wasn’t there. I was tripping. It was shot by Jody Morris, who had come on an Etnies Tour. I shot mine on a ES tour, so I guess, the same distributor put us in the same hotel, where it was shot from! It got me even more hyped about my pic, because I thought it was so much better with the bicycle.
Would you recommend digital or film?
It’s up to people. Both have advantages. It just depend on what you want to do. I’m sticking to film. Actually, yeah people, use film, so it doesn’t die, so I can still use it. I’ve heard Kodak is suppose to kill it’s photography film department in 2008, which would be really crazy, and a big shame, and a big problem!
What are the benefits of using film or digital?
Film for quality, printing, for real photography, the effects of light on chemicals. Nothing will EVER replace that. Digital for convenience, faster progression, and budget reasons.
What kit do you use?
Mostly a Nikon FM2, with a motordrive…I want to get new stuff, with better optics, but I haven’t found the camera that fully meets my demands. I’m really picky, and I guess it might not exist yet, I might have to design it!
Your photography website address if you have one?