This aesthetic approach is one we’ve already seen in his Champs Élysées series, which photographed tourists getting off the bus at hotspots in Paris. “Van Life uses the same recipe,” says Fancois, “but instead of diving into the universe of tourism and big camera lenses, we enter the world of caravans, plastic Birkenstocks and aperitifs.”
In the few years between these two projects (mainly because of the pandemic), not much has changed in Francois’ personal life — he still lives in the same apartment in Paris with his wife and two children. However, things changed a lot in his professional life after he left his job as an integrated designer and art director to become a freelance photographer. Initially, the pandemic was a bit of “ebb and flow”. But eventually things picked up again: alongside his personal projects, Francois has now shot two ad campaigns with Balenciaga, exhibited in an art gallery in Paris and published his third monograph.
However, through the Van Life project, Francois met some pretty interesting people who were made all the more endearing by their love of camping. As he discusses some of the standout images, he cites his picture of Luc in Brittany. Clad in just a pair of Speedos and emerging from his trailer with a golden, sun-kissed glow, he exudes what Francois calls the “David Hasselhoff touch”. On the other hand, the image of Nono – also in Brittany – is full of excitement and energy. Francois seems to almost jump out of his trailer, fingers in a victory sign and a grin on his face, and tells us that he has visited this very campsite every summer for the last 25 years. “He looks like a movie character to me,” adds Francois.
But with the intimacy of the campsite and the conversations Francois started with so many people, he also found he formed some pretty deep connections and friendships. For example, the image of Marylene in Rhône-Alpes, wearing a colorful bikini holding a bottle of wine, shows her just before she and her husband have an aperitif – a custom in France of sharing drinks and snacks in the early evening. “After I had photographed a lot, I was invited to an aperitif and a chat,” explains Francois. “Whenever you take their portrait, you’re already in their intimate space, especially when it’s hot and they’re in a bathing suit; it opens communication.” Simultaneously humorous and heartwarming, the Van Life series feels like the perfect end to a summer of fun.