Guy Lucas de Peslouan. Although you may not immediately recognize the name, this extremely talented individual is single-handedly responsible for so many of the photos of some of the world’s most desired timepieces, including offerings from brands such as Richard Mille, Thomas Prescher, Audemars Piguet and Van Cleef & Arpels that you would almost certainly already be familiar with his work, even if you didn’t know it. Not only an internationally praised photographer, he has also co-authored 6 major books on the most prestigious brands of the watchmaking industry, illustrating again and again that he is one of the most talented photographers in his field in Europe.
It was truly a pleasure therefore, when we were granted the opportunity to meet and have a drink with him in a cosy lobby in Paris, a few meters down from the Place Vendôme. This was our chance, we hoped, to learn more about this rather remarkable individual.
And we were not disappointed.
At the beginning of this year Guy successfully published his second book on Richard Mille, and so this seemed a good a place as any to start exploring his exceptional career.
“Richard wanted something unconventional, with very little text, and mainly focused on the technique and architecture of his watches. As soon as he saw the first shots, he gave me free reign to work.”
Richard Mille Pignons © Guy Lucas de Peslouan
TWL : Surely it must have been near impossible to capture accurately the detail of the incredibly tiny parts that operate within these Racing Machines ?
GL : Indeed, some parts are immeasurably small ! That’s the very specificity of my job in horology, especially compared with jewelery where creations are, for most part, at the scale of the centimeter. The other challenge lies with the materials themselves and the angles. Gold, titanium, platinum, etc., react in different ways to the light. Some parts of the watches have curves that, combined with these materials, are a real challenge to shoot. I remember in particular a piece from Laurent Ferrier whose horns gave me a great deal of difficulty !
TWL : How do you capture these stunning images?
GL : A Nikon D3X. I’ve always been a Nikon man. It’s a 24.5 million pixels camera, that I bundle with a macro 105 mm lens with a constant opening at 2.8. Before that, I used to work with a D2X, but it was only capable of 12 million pixels. Today I have two times that, files are bigger and clients can easily plan other uses than pure commercial shots, for instance, including advertising and everything in large format.
Honestly, Canon had on display a 21 million pixel camera two years before Nikon, but not all the cameras are compatible with all lenses. With a Nikon, I can chose any lens I want and bundle it with any camera, even from the 50’s !
The complex beauty of Richard Mille © Guy Lucas de Peslouan
TWL : Technology these days has made it far easier for more and more people to retouch and alter photos. Do you think that, someday, the photo itself will simply become a starting point, easily modifiable by anyone with Photoshop ?
GL : This is the age old question! These days, indeed, we have to admit that young Artistic Directors think right from the beginning in terms of Photoshop. They have less and less appreciation for photographic culture, and, actually, I think we won’t ever get back to the earlier days. Nevertheless, what makes the difference in an accomplished artwork of photography is the way you envision the picture right from the beginning as it should be in the end, and not as you could possibly transform it with the use of software.
Moreover, I’m in favor of allowing pictures to have some flaws, as this gives life to them, and in my opinion makes them more authentic. Like the traditional watchmakers I work with, I am a craftsman of photography.
Lastly, no matter how much artificial work is done, there are still some things that 3D simply can’t recreate.
A close-up of Thomas Prescher’s mind-blowing triple-axis tourbillon © Guy Lucas de Peslouan
TWL : When did you switch to a digital camera?
GL : Precisely when I started in horology. Some parts are so small that I needed a high level of zoom, which was impossible with silver photography as, if I zoomed in beyond a certain point picture would become too grainy. With the digital technology, I can zoom without any limit.
TWL : No regrets with silver ?
GL : They are different universes, with different uses. Digital can’t deal with too much contrast in a picture, that’s why it’s highly recommended for horology. On the contrary, jewelery pieces display multiples reflections due to the presence of precious stones, that’s why I prefer silver photography for them. In fact, some clients, such as Cartier, expressly ask me to work with silver, this is not a coincidence.
Dazzling – Boucheron’s Montre Snake © Guy Lucas de Peslouan
TWL : To what degree do you retouch your own pictures ?
GL : I’m not a specialist in computer graphics. I will do most of the corrections and editions by myself, but when it becomes too complicated, I will call in a professional to help me. I’m still using the CS3, and, like many, I only use 25% of its capacities !
TWL : Who would you like to work with next ?
GL : Lange & Söhne, for the timeless elegance of their pieces. Amongst major brands, Jaeger-LeCoultre. And amongst the independent watchmakers, Roger Smith.
Capturing the simplistic sophistication of De Bethune © Guy Lucas de Peslouan
TWL : You’re a critical link in the chain of horological communication. How do you think this area should continue to evolve?
GL : There is a fundamental shift to the watchmakers themselves that needs to take place, their job, the very core of their creations. We can’t be satisfied with just product-based communication any more, it has to be linked with their creators. Each brand has its own personality, most of the time inspired by its respective creator. Mille has very technical, masculine brand positioning, De Béthune is imbued with style and sensuality, and so on. I like to switch from one universe to another, but it’s critical that it’s personified.
Some brands have already taken the first steps, like Vacheron Constantin who focused specifically on the jobs of lacquering, or Van Cleef & Arpels that did an important work on “dressing” its watches with jewellery parts.
Big brands are locked into their own image and territory of communication, which is like and uncrossable boundary to them for fear that their clients won’t be able to associate with the brand any more. The problem is that clients get change, and so too must the brand.
Independent watchmakers have this freedom of communication, and they have to take it. If they want to be there in the next couple of years, it’s now or never.
A special thanks to Guy Lucas for speaking with us – please be sure to visit his official website at www.artsight.fr