ABOUT - Fred Mortagne

Bewitched by skateboarding at the age of 8, my passion for the “useless wooden toy” eventually became the catalyst for my life to come. While feeling out of place at school, entering the adult world seemed like a never-ending foggy day. No perspectives at sight. Skateboarding was the only guiding light. It brought all the missing links: freedom, fun, friends, adventures… and all of a sudden, my future gained clarity.

“Mom, dad, I want to make skateboard videos”.

From then on started what I consider my real education: traveling the world, meeting new and creative people, getting exposed to new cultures and arts in various forms. The “Do It Yourself” ethic naturally imposed itself, while falling down and trying tricks, again and again, was the perfect teacher for developing a sense for perseverance and strong effort.

My passion for creating images gradually evolved and transitioned from moving pictures to still images, over a long course of about 15 years. When photography came as a complement to videography, my only motivation was to showcase skateboarding like it’s never been shown before, focusing on its photogenic, artistic and choreographical beauty, and its intimate relationship with urban space and architecture. I had, outside of skateboarding, absolutely zero knowledge or culture in the field of photography. Pro-skater, artist, and photographer Ed Templeton saw the premises of my style, and blessed me with a tailored and lightning-fast photography education: Koudelka! Cartier-Bresson! Berengo-Gardin! Get those books! It was visual love at first sight.

I believe that my love for black and white takes its origins from two revelations in my childhood. As a young kid, watching Charlie Chaplin movies made me believe that colors were not existing in reality in the early 1900s, which was so abstract and impossible to comprehend. Then in my early teenage years, only one style stroke me from all the visual garbage on TV: Depeche Mode ’s music videos brilliantly directed by Anton Corbijn. A feast of grain, monochrome tones and striking compositions. This early influence was the spark for asking the dutch legend to write the foreword of my first monography.

From my beginnings up until now, I have been focusing on the construction of a timeless body of work, rather than trying to please the needs of ever-changing marketing needs attached to specific periods. Swimming against the stream was not so much audacious, but rather a personal research driven by true passion, regardless of potential success or not. The choice of my path was consolidated in 2004 when I received the 3rd prize in a b&w photo competition, the president of the jury being René Burri. Then I started to swim faster and stronger. In 2007, I won the very first Redbull Illume competition, which, by sparing you the details, led 6 years later to the start of a collaboration with Leica, that sparked the switch to digital and the beginning of a whole new level of dedication to capture the subtle beauty of the world through the prism of my angles and compositions. Despite being captured all over the (occidental) world, my work rather leaves asides notions of local cultures and countries specificities and instead gets lost in one endless standardized and asepticized cityscape, the result of capitalist globalization. Although creating the perfect conditions for the emancipation of skateboarding, which explains my original visual appeal for the urban biotope, it is not the idealistic world I feel in symbiosis with, cold and minimalist. As much as I love the sensual buildings of Oscar Niemeyer, you will never, you hear me, NEVER, find me living in a city like Brasília. Simultaneously, I have never been a full enthusiast of local cultures, when traditions (from the past) affect and limit too profoundly modern societies, format individuals and limit their self-development. As a profound humanist, I dream of a united world, prioritizing equality and solidarity over their antonyms … not generating social inequalities, injustice, and suffering… the exact opposite of the values I often find within the global community of skateboarding… By now you must think “this French man is full of paradoxes!!!”. Like on my skateboard, I am rather looking for balance, in this constantly moving and super hectic world, seeking for certain peace, and trying to keep my feet on the ground (another dam contradiction I know!).

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