Régine Temam. Interview


Régine Temam lives and works in a very special place. She is from Paris.
Her photography is exquisite, chick, stylish, unusual and…black and white without compromises.
Régine’s “story” with photography began in 1991 absolutely by chance, or should we say by destiny? First she experimented with street photography and later she “discovered” a theme of female portraits in her art. Photographing dancers at rehearsals and on stage came naturally after that because Régine always was a passionate ballet lover.


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How can you describe your style in photography?

– I would say I am a classical and figurative photographer. I take what I see, preferably completely natural, without any special effects. Sober and to the point.

What are the specifics of working with dancers as models for you?

– I have been an amateur dancer for quite a while myself, so I know the positions, working at the barre, which gives me the advantage of being in a way an insider in the world of ballet. Added to that, I have seen most ballets in the repertoire and I am familiar with their career paths.

With the model you have chosen, I told her what she had to do (I was in Vienna then and she performs in Vienna) : I asked her for “a grand écart”, made my own composition by putting
a white sheet on the floor. She did beautifully what I asked her to do and I did a whole series with her within quite a short time.
I made many portraits of Sabine (her name) and we have been very good friends ever since.


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What are the “laws” of ballet photography for you? Do you ever break them? Do they exist at all?

– Preferably black and white. Cropping and perspective are my fundamentals. I tend to prefer taking pictures of female dancers to male
dancers because women have a mirror effect on me. I have also taken photos of many male dancers whilst rehearsing and performing.
I draw a distinction between models who pose for me and dancers of whom I take pictures when they perform, unbeknowst to them. When
they pose for me, I tend to direct them : ask them for a “pirouette”, a “grand écart”, a “demi-plié”. When I am working whilst they are
rehearsing, I keep shooting as much as I can while my mind has a very clear idea of the scene I want to create. Back at home,
I sort out the shots and choose the best.
On stage, I also use colour but I must say, this is not my favourite aspect.

Actually, I never break my own rules. The laws do exist indeed but they are not written : they are ingrained in me, like the rules of choreography.

Do you like trying new techniques and approaches in photography?

– No, I don’t. I am of the old school so much so that I was very reluctant to go digital. It was not until
2006 that I bought a digital bridge camera, convinced by a friend. To this day, I don’t see digital photography as
“real photography”. I want and use a traditional camera, and still use black and white films in the manual mode.

Who is the dancer of your dream? The location?

Baryshnikov! I discovered him 40 odd years ago in the Turning point. The location : New York
Way back in 1978, I had spent a month in L.A. and on my way back home (to Paris), I stopped over at
Kennedy airport. I had to wait for seven hours. I found the book “the Turning Point” and read it compulsively.
I didn’t look at my watch until boarding time.

New York because last May, I attented the ABT Silver Jubilee at the Lincoln Center. The weather was gorgeous.
VIPs galore and I shot and shot. My dearest niece who lives and works there, whom I had visited, took pictures
of me and I look glamourous, I guess because I was so happy.


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Where do you find your inspiration?

– Two components : 1) The beauty and perfection of dancers; 2) My passion for ballet.

What attracts you more in ballet as a photographer – dancers’ everyday work and routine or the “glittering” performance part?

Definitely, the everyday work and routine, ie for me black and white and the real work.
Glittering is definitely not my cup of tea and it means colour.
One example : I was once on a cruise in the Mediterranean and – something I didn’t know when I registered – they had some dancers from the Paris Opera
Corps de ballet. They were rehearsing daily on the boat. I never missed one single session, with my Nikon F90. I must have used some 10 films at least.
The last day, was performance day and it was dull compared to the magic of rehearsing sessions.

Who were your teachers? Do you ever ask advises of other photographers?

– I guess you mean my teachers of photography. But first things first : my ballet teachers were a couple of white Russians in Tunis where
I was born and grew up. During the class at the bar, I would look and “penetrate” all black and white photographs on the wall of Lycette Darsonval,
Liane Daydé, Janine Charrat, Milorad Miskovitch, Anna Pavlova, one of the first prima ballerina dancing on pointes with what used to be still almost
“demi-pointes”, Margot Fonteyn.

Now , to come back to your question, I had one teacher whom I’ll name V.S. to preserve his identity. He was a photographer and gave me just
a few tips. For the remainder, when I started in 1990, the preparatory work had been done unconsciously for at least two decades.
I don’t ask advice of other photographers. Mind you I followed a one-day course at Harcourt-Studios and one course on photo development.
My teachers are also the many photo exhibitions I have attended.

Your own advice to those who are thinking of shooting dance for the first time.

– Practise and love ballet and black & white and the rest will come naturally.



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