François Goizé is a French photographer and filmmaker who has spent the last decade behind the scenes covering exclusive Paris Fashion Week events for outlets such as Vanity Fair France, Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue and GQ. A Night on the Town in Paris, published this past January, is a collection of 144 of his own personal favorites, including familiar faces such as Jessica Chastain, Pharrell Williams, Kim Kardashian, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Karl Lagerfeld, Katy Perry, Anna Wintour and Rihanna.
“Most of these portraits have never been published before,” Goizé said in the book’s forward. “They were taken mainly at Paris Fashion Week events at an hour when masks tend to slip. To me, they compose a sort of Fellini-esque mosaic of designers and muses, celebrities and unknowns, the eccentric and the elegant.”
Unlike the aggressive paparazzi usually found hovering outside PFW’s bigger events, the charming Goizé is known for his manners, professionalism and — perhaps most important in his work — persistence. Before this year’s catwalks get too crazy from March 2 to 9, he shared with us a few of his favorite stories (and best places for celebrity spotting) from Paris Fashion Week.
How did you get started as a fashion photographer?
I was a photographer long before I began covering fashion week. I mostly did portraits. One day 10 years ago I got a call from WWD because, at the last minute, they didn’t have a photographer for an event. Of course, I went for it. But I have to say, at first it was rough because I wasn’t used to that kind of photography.
For me, trying to get people to pose, with so much going on, was just a nightmare. It wasn’t just the subject and me alone; there are also all the other photographers who are trying to get their shot and, sometimes, it’s a bit of a rumble. But WWD called back and I began working for them a lot. That’s when I started getting to know people in the industry and began working for other publications, too.
What are your favorite memories?
A high point was when I was called in as the event photographer for Vanity Fair France, which launched in 2013. The VF online galleries allowed me to showcase my best work and not just photo calls, which is more satisfactory for me because I could present a more original point of view.
I prefer doing portraits at the more exclusive events and parties where I’m working for a client such as WWD. I feel more like I’m part of everything that’s happening, and I think that is more interesting. They always result in good experiences and great photos. What really shows in the book is the complicité, a sort of intimacy where the subjects can show another side of themselves.
Some events turn out to be really fun, because there’s a good crowd and they really let go. You turn around and suddenly find someone interesting, like the party where I took a very nice photo of Alber Elbaz [the Moroccan-Israeli fashion designer for Lanvin from 2001 until 2015] with two Brazilian dancers.
Another fun party was the “Eyes Wide Shut” 90th anniversary of Vogue Paris at a private mansion, where everybody had masks and really started letting loose. Obviously, that’s a lot more fun than when an entourage is all over you with, “You can’t do that. You can’t go there. No photos in the VIP section.” That gets really boring.
What’s it like to shoot Paris Fashion Week?
Paris Fashion Week is always a busy time because there are so many parties and events that need coverage. Brands like L’Oréal, Swarovski and fashion houses hire house photographers to service the media. There are photographers for agencies like Getty, which sell photos to newspapers and websites all over the world. And glossies like Vanity Fair and Vogue send their own photographers.
It’s very competitive because you have to get the right person in the photo and every other photographer does, too. I try to get photos that are different, but for that, the person has to be willing to pose again somewhere else.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
I’ve had some nightmare evenings. There was one at a party, at a bar, where there was Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz and Justin Bieber. It would have been great to get the three of them together, but even if the club hires you to come and take their photos, they actually don’t have the power to make stars pose for you.
There’s such an entourage it’s ridiculous. So, I can spend a whole evening trying to get the photo I want and, in the end, I don’t get it because they slipped out a back door. Or you can haggle for an hour and, in the end, you have a two-second window to get the shot. Of course, I prefer it when the atmosphere is calmer and I can be more creative with the shot, because, in the end, everybody likes that photo better.
Do you have to compete with bloggers now, too?
We live in a time when PR agencies get more excited about having bloggers in the house because they have so many followers. The bloggers are also competition because they post the photos on Instagram immediately.
The result is that brands now want photos right after the event or even while it’s still going on. Some photographers have a team onsite to edit images and publish right away. I wouldn’t want to do that because that means you lose control.
It sounds old fashioned, but I really have to edit the photos myself. When you come back from a party, it can be midnight or later and then you spend almost all night editing the photos because, even though they might be very nice, they can always be a little better.
Every day, we photographers wonder how we managed without computers, without Wi-Fi, without Internet, without mobile phones, without digital cameras.
Are there jobs you won’t do because they’re just too much of a pain?
There are paparazzi and agency photographers who cover almost everything, including the red carpet and photo calls. A photo call is usually set up at the entrance of a big event — there’s big backdrop with all of the labels of the sponsors. All of the A-listers come and stand in front of it, and you have all of the photographers lined up who scream so that the star looks at them. I don’t like photo calls because they’re so stiff.
Where are the best places to people-watch during Paris Fashion Week?
The best place to watch fashion people come and go are at major hotel bars like the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, Hotel Costes, Plaza Athénée Paris, Le Bristol Paris or Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris. You can also go where the shows happen, like the Palais de Tokyo, the Grand Palais or the tents set up in the Tuileries.
Years ago, the shows were all concentrated at the Louvre, but now they’re all over town because everyone wants to be original. Obviously, Colette is the epicenter of all things cool; everybody goes there during Fashion Week. It’s really incredible. The café terrace across the street is probably the best spot for taking it all in.