Stargazing with François Goizé

January 20, 2023

At Le Roch Hotel & Spa in the heart of Paris, Rihanna, Jessica Chastain, Anna Wintour, Bella Hadid, Pharrell and other boldface names can all be found in the hotel lobby and restaurant… as striking portraits by François Goizé. For more than a decade, the photographer who has contributed to publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue and Vanity Fair France has captured an astounding array of celebrities across fashion, music and film during major fashion events and after-hours parties. To see him in action is to observe a steady, unassuming approach – his secret weapon in getting everyone to feel unguarded and comfortable in front of the camera. This small yet dynamic exhibition is part of an ongoing series that includes two self-published books, “A Night on the Town in Paris” and “Last Night on the Town in Paris”. Ahead of a busy schedule this week – no doubt several late nights – he reveals some of the stories behind these singular shots. 

How did you determine this selection?

Most of these photos are from my second book, “Last Night on the Town in Paris” from 2021, although I did include the portrait of Rihanna that appears on the cover of the first book. For this show, I made a selection of what I thought were my most original and powerful images, focusing on the energy, the fashion and the celebrities. Then I finalized the choice with Xavier Brunet, who organised the exhibit in function of the décor at Le Roch and its international clientele.

In some cases, it seems you have asked to shoot the person – Anna Wintour, for instance – while other photos such as the one of Pharrell and Katy Perry appear candid. What do you want us to see in each instance?

The intention is always the same. Over time, people come to trust you. Even when it’s a candid shot, people are always aware of the photographer — these aren’t paparazzi shots — but spontaneity tends to reveal more about a subject’s personality than a posed portrait. My hope is that the viewer feels a certain intimacy, like they’re part of the moment. 

All of the photos were taken before the pandemic, now six or seven years ago. Do you feel we have returned to this energy today, or do they look like they are from another time?

For me, they’re from another time. But people want to move on; fashion and luxury-related events seem to be coming back stronger than ever.

We see Jessica Chastain in an embroidered dress, Bella Hadid in a sheer embellished corset dress. Are you aware of the fashion at the moment you take these photos or is it mostly about capturing the moment?

Fashion is definitely part of it, but I’m more of a portraitist. I’m trying to capture the person wearing the clothes in the moment. That said, the way they feel about what they’re wearing — sexy, confident, powerful — obviously has a direct effect on the outcome. 

Can you conjure the scene for us from any of these photos – or the memory of taking the shot?

The results always look a lot easier than taking the photo, especially during fashion week events, you maybe have just a few seconds and everything that’s going on around you makes it tricky. That was the case with Rihanna. She showed up at a Balmain party at Crazy Horse around 1 a.m. and the room went wild. She was perfectly calm, but there was this huge crush; security formed a circle around her, and her assistant rushed to put a jacket over her shoulders. That shot was about being at the right place at the right time and seizing the opportunity. 

Anna Wintour has always been very kind; she’s never refused a photo. I find her look caring and confident, she’s above all the craziness around the shows.

How does the ambiance – the runway versus parties and nightlife – shape your approach? With the latter, we’re clearly seeing people more uninhibited, for instance.

There’s an art to runway photography. I’ve done it but it’s not what I enjoy most because you’re running in a pack from one show to the next and everyone is competing for the same shot. The most rewarding assignment, for me, is covering an event where the ambiance kind of takes off. If I leave sensing that there might be one really good shot for my next book, it’s a win.

A hotel lobby and dining space is different from a gallery setting in that it is not a dedicated exhibition space. When people catch sight of these photos, what do you hope they see?

I hope people will feel like they’ve experienced part of the glamour of Paris and the fashion scene. As for the space, I find it interesting to show these images as part of a décor. They’re stripped of further context: you don’t know exactly when or where the photos were taken, it becomes part of the story at that particular setting. My hope is that people will want to know more. 

“A Night on the Town in Paris” continues until January 31st at Le Roch Hotel & Spa in Paris. 

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