Dreaming of the Far East with Photographer Leo Berne

Embarked on a journey to Japan a few years back, Paris-based photographer and director Leo Berne has since then been captured by all the mesmerizing creations, natural scenery and the razor cool girls from the far east. Depicted in a very distinct film-like visual, the images of Berne hit our minds in a three-course meal procedure. Appetizer is a dose of nostalgia, something lost, passé and cannot be traced. Secondi is an exciting feel of peeking into someone else’s life. The sense of intimacy and privacy is carefully executed his photography. Almost as if they are seen through a lover’s eye, vividly documenting every single moment of a first date. The desert comes in a lingering tickle of slight thought, where it brings one deeper into the situation, and gets stuck in that dream for the next 8 hours. 

Japan, Leo Berne

Japan, Leo Berne

We spoke with Leo about his thoughts on his photography and his recent personal favorites, alongside some photos we loved from his latest projects. Have a look below. 

1. Asia seems to be the epicenter of your mood. Obviously you love Asia (especially the cool girls). Why?

American culture has been the main influence in Europe in the last century. I’m tired of this hegemony, I feel more inspired by Asian culture, especially Japanese one. There’s a different way to approach creation, more from the right brain hemisphere i would say. Miyazaki’s onerisism, Sono Sion’s exuberance, Kyoshi Kurosawa’s discreet refinement, Shigeru Mizuki’s stories about yokais don’t have their equivalent in western culture.

2. There is always a tone of suspense or a light dash of nostalgia in your photography. Perhaps it’s the color from the film, but it seems to represent a mood of yours?

In my approach, nostalgia is inherent of the act of taking photographs, it’s about keeping a trace from disappearing moments.  Aestheticizing them is my way to give them a weight. 

3. What is it like working with global muses like Kiko, Rihanna and Sita? They all seem to represent a bad girl characteristic. Even the other models have the smell of rebellion and uncompromising to stereotypical female image. Is that what inspires you?

I’m interested by girls with strong personality, especially in movies, a lot of my favorite ones have a strong female main role: The Prisoner Scorpion trilogy, Lady Vengeance, Saya Zamurai, Elle, The mother and the whore, La loi de la jungle, Tokyo Story, No Regrets for Our Youth…

4. I remember you being a shy person and when I see your photography I feel like I’m seeing through the eyes of someone timidly hidden behind the scene. Do you think so about yourself?

I’m not shy, I’m just not into small talk. There’s a difference between being shy and reserved. Although, when I take photographs, especially in the streets, I try people not to notice me, I do everything I can to be invisible.

5. What is the song/film/book currently you are obsessed with

song: The rising storm - Frozen laughter

film: Sono Sion – Antiporno

Book: Shigeru Mizuki - nonnonba

6. Was it love at first sight? or did you start documenting your memories of Asia later on?

It was in Thailand in 2006 and of course I loved it. I was a terrible photographer though, but I shot a lot and did some progress. I learn from every trip, but the risk in the learning is to become too technical and and forget that photography is about emotions first.