Interview with François Roland, French photographer and author
François Roland is a photographer, blogger and author of the book ‘Being French! A Frenchman’s Guide to a More Sensual Life’. A true Frenchman from Paris, his book is not just a collection of essays about sensuality, but a memoir as well, told from a uniquely French perspective.
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, kind, rational
Your very first blog post was way back in 2005: what was the blogosphere like back then?
It was less dense and abounding that it is today. There were considerably fewer blogs or social sites and Facebook was not the huge community that it is now.
How do you find inspiration for your writing, and blogging? Is it difficult sometimes?
Blogging is never difficult for me. My primary idea with my blog was to combine my passion for images (photos, digital collages, etc.) with thoughts and reflections on the world and the time we are living in today. Hence my French title ‘Pensées en images’.
So I’m never out without my camera and everything inspires me. A chic and alluring French woman walking down the street, a lovers’ kiss, a bum sitting with his dog on the sidewalk, life in coffee bars, a demonstration (we like them), a ‘brocante’ day… Paris gives endless opportunities…
And surprisingly for me the only real difficulty as it came to write this book was to put it in the best possible English, without betraying the deep French message I have to convey. But I never had a single moment of what they call ‘the anguish of the white page’.
So I guess I had this entire book in me from the very start. And the inspiration, I found it in my life, just bringing back the great sensual life I had and reflecting on all the difference it made to live it as a Frenchman.
In your mind, what does it mean to be ‘Parisian’?
I was born in Paris, so it took time for me to realize it, but it means to be lucky, for a start. It took me to travel around the planet so that I understood how Paris is unique in so many different ways, and to see so many eyes shining all over the world, just because I just told I was Parisian. In short, the more I discover my own city (you never cease to do so) the more I feel privileged to have spent my whole life here.
Tell us about the moment you decided to begin writing your latest book, ‘Being French’.
I think the idea was in me for a long time. And maybe I was a little lazy because I was clearly seeing the amount of work needed, plus I knew that book was mainly interesting for Anglo-Saxon people and writing it in English was one more difficulty.
I had been enticed by Anglo-Saxon friends to do it, but as I say in the book it was a love story with a Scandinavian woman that finally convinced me to write about our French ways in matters of love and sex in a book.
Why do you think love and romanticism is often associated with France?
That’s not an easy question, and you’ll surely find better exegetes than me on that record with historians who will tell you about Libertins’ novelists like Laclos or Sade writing so freely of love and sex during the Enlightenment (18th century).
Now if I should stick to more simple and present facts, I would say that a lot of things in France directly link to sensuality: good food, perfumes, seductive clothing, lingerie etc… Plus in France about love and sex, you don’t have this conspiracy of silence that can weigh on the same topic in Anglo Saxon countries. We talk about it and even joke on it openly, in all kinds of ways bringing more lightness and freedom in that delightful department of life.
What can we learn from the French about the place for romance in our lives?
I’m tempted to shoot back: read my book! But maybe one of the first things coming to my mind is that romance and sensual life are two different things and even if everyone would want them to match we French are particularly aware that they don’t necessarily do, and we deal with that fact.
Another thing that we are conscious of is that in one’s life, romance doesn’t usually flow like a ‘long quiet river’ as we say in France. We know the fragile and transient nature of Love with a big ‘L’. For us, be it about love or other matters, life is not in black or white. We see the shades of grey, and we still can find our happiness in their changing nuances.
Thank you François for taking the time to speak to us at MaVieFrançaise®. We’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work.Image Credits: All photographs by François Roland.