You might have heard about his work first after The Huffington Post spread the word about one of his latest collaboration with French digital artist Miguel Chevalier, but Claude Mossessian has had a camera in his mind from a tender age. Young Claude, who is now 49 and lives in Sorède, in southern France, was raised surrounded by moving images. The camera was a familiar presence because his father regularly filmed him with his 8mm and Super 8. At age 11 he wanted to be a TV cameraman.
For a while life chose a different path for him. After an A Level from a computer school he started a career in an international computer company. Then, six years ago, he decided to go back to his early passion and founded his own film production company. As a filmmaker, Mossessian firmly believes that it is possible to tell a beautiful visual story about art with an emotional approach, avoiding the didactic tone that is specific to art programs on television.
Prominent Monkey reached out to him to get more insights about his way of filming art exhibitions and interactive installations.
Prominent Monkey: Given your background, the combination of filmmaking and digital media seems quite natural. What is your approach when you’re asked to document a piece of architecture or a painting?
Claude Mossessian: I usually define my way of working with four words. Immerse yourself without any camera, be quiet and feel the things around you. Capture your surroundings with your feelings, choose (frame) the best way to place your camera, trying, in the real world, to see the frame you see when you close your eyes. A mental image is more interesting that reality, so try to merge both. Discern the essential part of your work, try to understand what you see and feel, then choose only the images you keep with your senses. Finally, convey an experience, a film with a touch of emotion, to people.
P. M. Almost every filmmaker has a turning point in their career. Tell me something more about yours.
C. M. I was 25 years old. I was staying at Le Couvent Sainte-Marie de la Tourette – which was built by Le Corbusier – for 7 days, with an architect, a friend of mine. He had seen my short films and said: “Ok Claude, we are going to a secret place for one week and you will do something with your camera…” That place will never leave me. The film I shot back then was Ce corps imaginaire.I tried to translate an architectural dimension onto film. I tried to transfer my feelings for this architectural object into frame, sounds, music, natural light and words. An imaginary body made with a sensitive approach…
This film became very popular among architects and film festival audiences. One of the Directors of the Centre National des Arts Plastiques was very impressed and she asked me what my next film was. I said “I would like to understand what it means to film a painter, transferring the dimension of a painting into a film. I know Jean Pierre Pincemin…” She said: “Ok, I will commission this film”. This is how it started.
End of part 1. Part 2 will be published on 22 May.
(Images © 2014 Miguel Chevalier, videos © 2014 Claude Mossessian. Courtesy of the authors).