For French photographer Thomas Krauss, photography is a family hobby. He first practices it with his family of blood, his daughters, but recognition came with his family of ink, the French world of tattoo art. From intense portraits of tattooed people to captures of everyday life’s monkey business, the work of Thomas is full of tenderness, mischief and humanity. With his photographs in soft and rough black and grey, he masters storytelling, with always a spontaneous and humble sense of humor. Kids giving the middle finger or tattoo artists with melancholic eyes are inhabiting his joyful portfolio.This allows him to introduce us to the intimacy of other human beings, both with their silent body language and their haunting eyes. With as much simplicity as in his photographs, Thomas Krauss opened up to beautiful.bizarre.
How did you come to photography?
At the birth of my elder daughter, 8 years ago. I didn’t take an interest in it before. And since the mum gave birth, I felt like doing pretty family pictures. So I have bought a brand new digital reflex camera, which allowed me to learn the basis. From one day to the next, I had completely fallen into photography. I have quickly realized I could press a release mechanism all day long!
What is your relationship with photography and how would you like to make it evolve?
It is more and more present… And not only the act of photographing. I think it is part of a whole. Looking, trying to understand, having ideas, putting them in action, writing… I had the chance to have a lucky year. I’ve made some exhibitions, beautiful meetings and events that are heart-warming.
I’m not thinking about (not enough probably) the way my relation to photography is evolving.
There is something exhilarating when you are feeling that you’ve pressed the button at the right moment. I try to always keep a camera in my pocket. There is a photographer who said that you have to do photos with your eyes all day long. It is the better way to train. I never stop doing that. But I’ve bought a new toy to allow me to shot what my eyes were the only ones to see before.
What is your life outside photography, and how does it influence it?
I am a father, husband, son and teacher. I guess these terms are influencing my vision of what is surrounding me. I also think my education, both old and recent (I think we are going on learning all our life) explain my taste for some things.
You like to stage your children, sometimes in a provocative, almost punk way…what is the story behind these pictures?
Mine. The story of a guy who has become a father while he is probably to anxious to be a relaxed dad… A father who enjoys silly things, who likes when his children use swear words or bad gestures because he has got an immoderate love for slang and irreverence …
Why are you now using old techniques and black and white?
At the beginning, I told you, I’ve learned with pretty digital sensors. Then, little by little, I’ve tried to discover how the photos I admired were made. Many of them had the film as common denominator. So, I’ve decided to experience it. I have several types of cameras, medium size, big size and small one too for my family monkey business… I have learned to develop photos to master the finish I was looking for… Why B&W ? Because the machine which helps me to develop color is broken ! And because of laziness too. Black and white makes things simpler. It betrays reality.
What is your link with tattoo art and tattooed people?
As far as I can remember, I have always has an attraction for what was very far of my education, by what was different of the taste of my parents. My interests were (and are still) very distant of what they like. They respect my tastes but sometimes it takes time for them to understand and accept.When I became tired of only photographing my kids, I remembered my passion for tattoo art. So I’ve contacted two studios near my home and one has adopted me. It was a very beautiful meeting, I’ve made true friends. They brought me with them at tattoo conventions. I’ve placed my potical chamber (the camera you see on westerns) and I’ve fought my timidity to take a picture of perfect strangers. Some of them have become friends…
I’ve met her during my first tattoo convention and took her in picture. I knew her work a little. I’ve send her the result of our meeting. I was quite satisfied: this young lady has really something to show when she is in front of a camera, I’ve realized it later when I photographed her again, and again. She was happy of the picture I think. So she rummaged around in my Facebook and Flickr pages and she found things that may have found an echo inside of her. I think we share the same taste of off the wall things. We are inspiring each others. Sometimes, I am about to take a picture and I think, “Could Miss Nahon do something with this one?” And each time she is drawing from one of my pictures, I am feeling a huge joy. I also like the idea that my girls, when they will be older, could boast to have their faces tattooed on stranger’s’ skin!
What kind of aesthetic are looking for in your pictures?
I don’t know… I like what is very contrasting. A bit grungy.
What or who would you like to photograph?
I would have enjoyed taking a picture of Chilean actor Daniel Emilfork. To the Swiss musician Reverend Beat Man too. When I first met Léa, she was tattooing him. But I was too shy… In fact, I would like to take a picture of everything my shyness is preventing me to fix!
Do you have other projects?
Beside the exhibition with Léa, I have another show in August, in a photography festival (Les Rencontres de Castelfranc). I am also working on a family photo album, with funny stories. I try to mix my love for pictures and words. When I will be dead, it will make a reading for my daughters. Or something to light the barbecue…