Editor’s Note: We’ve seen exhibits, slideshows, and photobooks but Laurent came up with something new with Wombat: “Photoboxes”. Today Eric chats with Laurent about Wombat, his work ethic, and working with Magnum. At the end of the post, Laurent also gives a promo code for Wombat.
Eric: Great honor having you Laurent! To start off, can you introduce yourself? How did you get started in photography?
Laurent: Hello Eric, thanks for having me! My name is Laurent Sancier, am French, 39 year old, and I live in Paris. I was born and raised in Paris’ west suburb. I studied international business and lived 5 years in England where I created Wombat (originally a weekly house music party !). I have always worked for myself. I started photography in 2012 when I discovered street photography and your blog! At that time, I was looking for my quest, and photography – like philosophy – came up as a great answer. Now when I look back on my life, I can tell that without knowing it, I have always been attracted to images, photographies, image covers, graphic designs, cartoons, illustrations…
Can you also tell us more about the ‘Wombat’ box? Why a wombat, and how do you describe the concept to other photographers?
I really wanted to do something meaningful, and when I came to the conclusion that Art can change the world (Nietzsche wrote that Art has the power to awake people’s will) I worked for several months and launched the first Wombat Box, three years ago, in October 2013.
Wombat’s mission is to see the world apart/differently.
Every two months, subscribers receive a limited-edition, hand-made box, containing two numbered collectable art prints and an artist’s portfolio.
Wombat is hand crafted in our studio in Paris and sent to art lovers worldwide. The box is the message.
What makes the Wombat box unique from just photo prints, books, or magazines? And what kind of experience do you want the user to have?
I like what Joseph Bisat Marshall, designer & journalist, recently wrote, “Wombat sits, conceptually and aesthetically, between the art world and the design world, borrowing from archival practices, luxury packaging design and independent magazine publishing”.
Actually Wombat is an art publication in which I feature artists with whom I share the values: responsibility, authenticity, freedom, love, altruism, independence, excellence… So to answer your question: It is very different than to buy some photo prints because with Wombat you are invited to a new tactile and visual experience. You receive a surprise box directly at your home, you feel it is handcrafted with love, passion, and hard work! You open it, you discover hand-numbered artworks from both new emerging and international renowned artists.
I want my subscribers to understand the messages of my artists.
Who are some photographers who have personally inspired you?
Willy Ronis. He made me start street photography, and I love the tenderness in all his images. JR also influenced the direction I gave to Wombat. You, Eric Kim, really influenced me too. I read all your articles about conquering the fear of shooting strangers. And I love your concept of Open Source Photography. That’s so avant-garde and intelligent.
At last, through my own publications, I got particularly touched by the story of Alix Cléo Roubaud, and more recently I feel very lucky to have met Sacha Goldberger. This guy is such a wonderful and inspiring artist.
Do you find it difficult to balance your own photography with publishing the work of others?
No because “my publishing” is my job. My photography is just… my photography. So I don’t put any pressure on myself. I don’t have any expectations. I run a tumblr, a personal visual diary, under my artist name, www.lennysmith.com. I am doing it just for me. I find it easier to browse through my pictures on a tumblr rather than on lightroom. I started with street photography, and now i would like to start portraits and nudes. I started with digital, now I am using mainly film cameras.
I think it is wonderful how you have collaborated with a lot of big names in photography, and also with Magnum. Can you tell what the collaboration process is like? How do you decide which photographers to publish, how do you edit their work, and how do you print the work?
For the castingL As soon as I discover a photographer on the web I want to work with, I simply get in touch and ask for a collaboration. 99,9% it works. When I need to contact a big artist, my advantage is that I don’t have any art education. Therefore, I am not scared or impressed by an artist’s career. For instance I met Martin Parr and David Lynch to explain them the concept Wombat … it’s only afterwards through other people reactions that I realized how big it was.
But don’t get me wrong, I am not a lucky opportunist. My approach is sincere and well founded, I am on a mission and I work very hard. So yes as a result I have published two special Wombat box editions in collaboration with Magnum Photos. I am very happy to have met their high expectations. We are now working on something special for their 70th anniversary next year.
As for the editing: I am learning box after box, I now know what makes a good cover, what is a good artist portfolio, when people are likely to frame one art photography… So I do the editing too.
For the design and the print process. I work with the best people I know. The design studio Los Patos is in charge of my graphic and design. The laboratory Processus does all my prints. Their experience and support have been essential since day one. Recently I have teamed up with Hahnhemhule papers.
For anyone else interested in creating their own entrepreneurial venue in photography, what advice would you give them?
Create your own rules. Seriously.
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Promo code ERICKIM gives a discount on all subscriptions and Wombat boxes!