an interview with Eléonore Simon

October 14, 2019  •  Leave a Comment


An interview with Eléonore Simon



RH: Who is Eléonore Simon?

ES: Eléonore ais French-American photographer based in Valparaíso, Chile with a background in art history and an upbringing that took me to different corners of the world. Before moving to Chile,  Eléonore lived in New York where she developed her first bodies of work, worked as a studio manager and served as a teaching assistant at the International Center of Photography. 

Eleonore Simon / Women Street Photography / 15 septrmbre 2018 / Grande Bibliothèque / Paris / © Gil Rigoulet

copyright Gil Rigoulet




RH: What attracted and inspired you to your current documentary project?

ES: I’ve been photographing Valparaíso for almost three years now. I had visited Chile ten years ago, and was so taken by the atmosphere of Valparaíso that I daydreamed of living there, in one of these small colorful houses perched on a hill. In late 2016, I came back for what was supposed to be a short visit, and I ended up moving to Chile. There’s something really fascinating about Valparaíso and the first pictures I took there had something special, so I knew I wanted to keep on exploring the port and channel some of its poetry through photography.



RH: Can you talk us through the planning stage for your project?

ES: One of the things I appreciate when working in the street photography tradition is that advanced planning isn’t necessary, as opposed to documentary work where I do some research and make initial contacts far before I even get to take out my camera. In Valparaíso, I always carry a small camera, walk, observe and wait. I have never been interested in photographing parades, festivals or large gatherings so I don’t seek out these shooting opportunities. I am most interested in ordinary moments, and the potential that photography has to transform them into something else, something mysterious and beautiful.

 I will say that when I first started photographing in Valparaíso, I was warned multiple times (as in, daily), that parts of the city were dangerous and I shouldn’t venture alone. So when I wanted to see a new neighborhood, I would plan on going with someone who knew it well so I could familiarize myself with the place. Eventually, I got to know the city quite well and learned Spanish so I’m comfortable exploring on my own.



RH: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

ES: Maybe learning Spanish beforemoving at the other end of the world would have been wise? But in truth, not having language to connect with people and feeling rather disoriented informed my work in Valparaíso in ways that are really rich.


CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOAn abstract take on Valparaiso's murals. Valparaiso, Chile - September 20, 2017.
Une interpretation abstraite des peintures murales de Valparaiso. Valparaiso, Chili - 20 septembre 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

Implementation and Completion


RH: How have you dealt with any challenges and difficulties within your project?

ES: There were times when I felt stuck, when I wasn’t getting any interesting photographs, or lost interest in photography altogether. So I would set small goals for myself : shooting for 2 hours, walking until I reached 10,000 steps, picking a neighborhood at random. Sometimes shifting gears and working on a different project (whether it’s curating or photographing) helps me move forward. 



RH: How long do your projects tend to take from start to finish?   

ES: I still consider my Valparaíso project ongoing so you may want to ask me again in a few years. I also don’t know that I will ever deem a project truly finished, mainly because I think of all my different portfolios as working together and contributing to a larger body of work. 


CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOA painter at work in Valparaiso's Cerro Concepcion. Valparaiso, Chile - May 31, 2017.
Un peintre a l'oeuvre dans le Cerro Concepcion de Valparaiso. Valparaiso, Chili - 31 mai 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

Editing and Sequencing


RH: Do have several images to edit of one fleeting moment or do you have one well-constructed precise image that you have captured?

ES: I usually only have one or two images to choose from for a specific scene. I will have an image in my head of the photograph I want to create and wait for the elements to come together. So I’ll usually know if I got the image I wanted before I take it to Lightroom.



RH: Within the editing stages, have you felt the project has taken on a different narrative than first envisaged?

ES: Absolutely. It is so important to give your project enough time to develop, not only so that you have more images to work with, but because your editing and sequencing matures with time, when you have more distance from your work, and yourself.

When I first started editing my Valparaíso portfolio, I gravitated towards images that were more dense, abstract, even somber at times. I noticed that I gradually added back images that were lighter, more playful. Perhaps I was feeling more comfortable in Valparaíso, or maybe what I appreciate in a photograph, and in myself as an artist, also shifted with time.


CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOPhotograph of a woman walking, taken from inside of a bus. Valparaiso, Chile - February 20, 2017.
Image d'une femme marchant dans la rue, prise depuis l'interieur d'un bus. Valparaiso, Chili - 20 fevrier 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

Tips and hints 


RH:  What would you recommend for people starting their own photographic project?

ES: Just go out, shoot and try to stay in the moment (and remind me to do the same!). Pay attention to the things you photograph when nobody is watching, the things you are drawn to when you don’t take yourself so seriously. Starting out with a concept for a photography project can be good, but sometimes it is a hindrance to letting the work follow its natural course. Let the images take you where they want to take you, and be willing to let your ideas evolve with them. 



RH: Does the camera really matter? 

ES: I don’t think it matters terribly. You’ll probably be better off really learning how your current camera works than keep on investing in new, “better” gear. The most important thing is to feel comfortable enough with your camera so that shooting becomes second nature, so you can stay in the moment and focus your attention on the image itself.



RH: Any books you would recommend reading to get the creativity started?

ES: Tough question as it’s so dependent on the reader! Read photography books, fiction, essays, listen to podcasts, music, whatever you connect with. I’m not against the occasional self-help book either!



RH:  Would you recommend attending photography workshops?

ES: Photography takes confidence, but also a healthy dose of humility, it’s about continuous learning and relentlessly pushing yourself. Workshops can be a great way to learn and have a dedicated time and space for photography, but they are by no means the only way to grow. It boils down to figuring out how you learn best, and what you can do within your budget. Be voracious, read books, attend festivals, head to the museum, strike up a conversation with a photographer whose work intrigues you. And do take things offline whenever you can.

CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOA stray dog scratches itself on the pavement in Valparaiso's Cerro Concepcion neighborhood. Valparaiso, Chile - September 20, 2017.
Un chien errant se gratte au sol dans le quartier de Cerro Concepcion a Valparaiso. Valparaiso, Chili - 20 septembre 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOThe volunteer search and rescue corps of Valparaiso (Cuerpo de Voluntarios de los Botes Salvavidas de Valparaiso) at a yearly remembrance ceremony in honor of their deceased colleagues. Valparaiso, Chile - April 9, 2017.
Les sauveteurs en mer de Valparaiso (Cuerpo de Voluntarios de los Botes Salvavidas de Valparaiso) lors d'une ceremonie annuelle en l'honneur des leurs collegues decedes. Valparaiso, Chili - 9 avril 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOA pack of dogs bark and run after a gaz delivery truck. Valparaiso, Chile - May 31, 2017.
Une meute de chien poursuit en aboyant une camionnette livrant le gaz. Valparaiso, Chili - 31 mai 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

CHILE - VALPARAISOCHILE - VALPARAISOA man takes a nap in front of the Pacific, a dog by its side. Valparaiso, Chile - May 22, 2017.
Un homme dort devant le Pacifique, un chien couche a ses cotes. Valparaiso, Chili. 22 mai 2017.

copyright Eléonore Simon

RH: If you want to find out more visit:

Instagram: @eleonoresimon

Studio Hans Lucas:


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