Biography

Guy Marineau was born in 1947 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside of Paris. His mother was from Brittany, and his father from the Vendée, a little farther south on France’s Atlantic coast. At the age of three, because of health problems, his parents sent him to live with an aunt on the Crozon peninsula in Brittany. A few years later, they left the Paris area and moved to Orthez, a small town in the Béarn region, in the Southwest at the foot of the Pyrénées.

Guy’s Jesuit education inculcated him with essential values. He became interested in the world of images starting at age 10, and acquired his first camera—dashing his mother’s hopes for him to become a banker. In 1963 he became an apprentice in a photo business, and for three years he learned the art and technique of portraits, wedding photos and reportage as a correspondent for the newspaper Sud Ouest (Southwest), and at the same time mastered large-format view cameras, studio and laboratory work—the basic skills of a “provincial photographer” which served him well throughout his career.

Military service also provided a fundamental experience for his life and work : assigned in March 1967 to the 57th Infantry Regiment near Bordeaux, he instantly developed a gift as a “sniper”, and soon became an elite sharpshooter with a military rifle—a technique he later applied to shooting on fashion-show runways.

In 1971 he left the Béarn for Paris. Getting off the train at 7 am, by 11am he had found a job. His first interview, for a post in the judicial photo-identity service of the Préfecture de Police, went well. The second, with the important press group Réalité, during which he was asked to make black-and-white prints in a laboratory, went even better—he was hired on the spot. It was another era…

On weekends, he traveled around France doing personal photo reportages, which he was allowed to develop in the office lab. His work gained notice, and he was sent on his first professional reporting jobs, notably in Belfast where he narrowly missed being killed by a car bomb. He also covered Israel and the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon. Little by little he made a name for himself.

He became friends with a former photographer, and a friend of Yves Saint Laurent, André Ostier, for whom he made all his black-and-white prints, and in the process he discovered the fashion world. In August 1975, a client mentioned to him that an American fashion newspaper, Women’s Wear Daily, was looking for a photographer. Interviewed by the paper’s Paris Bureau Chief, he was once again immediately hired.

When he was told the job’s salary, some ten times what he had been making, he realized that he had tumbled into another universe. Unfamiliar with the names of the influential people in fashion and show business, he spent hours, teaching himself his new cast of characters. His first assignment was to cover the press preview of the erotic film Emmanuelle. Thanks to his polyvalent skills, he was also sent to cover fashion shows and the now-mythic soirées at the parisian nightclub Le Palace.

He immediately liked his new career. He recognized that he had the extraordinary luck to be part of the golden age of the profession, when cases of wine and champagne were delivered to the office along with cases of mineral water, and almost any form of excess was permitted. In one weekend in Deauville, at the hotel owned by film director Claude Lelouch, a 12,000-franc bill for mini-bar expenses shocked no one.

Staying at the best hotels was not a privilege, but a requirement ordained by the editors. But he never allowed himself to fall into any addictions nor to lose any of his basic values, despite sometimes sixteen-hour workdays. Before going to sleep, he would even put a bathmat with the hotel name on it at his bedside, so he would know where he was when he woke up. Changing countries several times in one week was standard practice.

From his first encounter with Yves Saint Laurent, his partner and business manager Pierre Bergé and their coterie, things always went smoothly and naturally, with a climate of mutual confidence that lasted for his entire career. Guy was their photographer for more than 30 years, for fashion shows and for more personal photos, notably at Saint Laurent’s home in Marrakech.

He had the same feeling with Christian Lacroix and Valentino, also throughout several decades. In such a volatile world, such faithful collaborations and privileged relationships were more than unusual.

Guy claims his role as a precursor in the use of telephoto lenses. As early as 1979 he began to station himself at the far end of the runway with a long lens, to produce shots that were not spoiled by the public. It was a sharpshooter technique, instantly copied by many, and still unequaled.

One Monday morning in 1985, he realized that the locks on his office had been changed : he knew a little too much about the private life of an important colleague. It’s one of the inconveniences of the profession, in which the boundaries between professional and personal life are extremely small.

The next day, there was a call from American Vogue. Before accepting the offer, he asked about what was happening with their current photographer – there would be no question of stealing his job. The answer was that the photographer in question had long been on his way out, that he had become uncontrollable. Guy called the photographer, who told him without any irony: “Go ahead. In any case, I’m through.”

With Vogue, aided by two assistants, Guy covered 90% of the designer shows every season, both couture and ready-to-wear. His life, which revolved around Paris, New York and Milan, became a little quieter. His affection for Saint Laurent remained unfailing.

In 2000, the arrival of digital photography changed everything. He tried several times to convince the artistic director of American Vogue to abandon film, wound up being seconded by another photographer, and lost his job.

He thinks that digital photography has killed the profession : with it, there is no more need for assistants, people are being fired right and left. One sad fact : from 325 runway photographers accredited in France in 1985, today there are about 60, under contract to financial groups. And runway photos all look alike.

Now an observer of the profession that he so much loved, Guy has happily dived back into his archives, which he intends to make available to the public. He is aware that he has enjoyed a career that many might envy. Beyond “creating images”, the profession has allowed him to share powerful and humanly enriching moments with so many of his photo subjects, whether they came from the world of fashion or the cinema universe.

Moreover, a man who might have “wound up with a wonderful collection of cadavers”—if had persisted in shooting judicial identity photos—now finds himself “with a wonderful collection of beautiful women”.

© Camille Salmon 2015

All pictures shown on the website can be bought. Please contact us if you wish to use any digital format or high quality printing.

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