How did Solitude come about?

Solitude is my thesis project for my degree at ESAG-Penninghen Paris. It’s a universal feeling that reaches every one of us at some point of time regardless of religion, language or country. Everybody feels lonely at least once in their life.

Photo by Robin Risser

Photo by Robin Risser

Was there a spark of inspiration?

First I started with making a reference diary. In it I put all my favorite directors, photographers, painters, et cetera. In doing this I tried to understand why I prefer some work and others not. You will find Andrew Wyeth in my references for painting, Erwin Olaf and Annie Leibovitz for photography, Stanley Kubrick for cinematography.

Where did the choice of objects come from?

I bought only two objects for this film. A hat that came from New York and is a real 50s cavanagh. The second thing is the wallpaper. I saw something like a million wallpapers but they were always similar in patterns and colors. Finally I bought a very old one from the 60s, hand-made. It was not easy to find because I wanted the wallpaper to be bluish grey and beige with little flowers. The choice of the colors in the first part of the film is based on the tones in this wallpaper. The other objects are from my family. Every object has its own story to tell!

There’s a strong photographic quality to your cinematography no doubt due to your background in still photography. What was your direction on the cinematography?


Oil portrait by Robin Risser

Originally I am a painter. This tendancy is visible in all my photographic work. In still life paintings every object expresses something – the same as in my film. The framing is inspired by Andrew Wyeth and the lighting by Caravaggio. The lighting in the film is daylight supported by reflectors. Alongside you will find a photo series made with flashes to show my real vision in terms of lighting for the film.

Why shoot with a still camera like the Canon 5D Mark II?

I have chosen the 5D for three reasons. My intention was to have a photographic look with real depth of field. I could have taken a Pro 35 but it would have been too heavy and expensive. The second thing is the sensitivity of the sensor. It is a 24×36 full frame sensor which is more sensitive to light. The interior shots were captured with daylight, so I needed the best for low lighting. Last but not least, a friend of mine could lend me his camera for a couple of weeks.

Do you think DSLRs with video will change cinematography?

I heard the sentence “Cinema is the rich peoples’ SPORT!” I think there is something true about it. Times are changing!

How has your experience at Penninghen been?

I have been studying for five years at ESAG-Penninghen. Historicaly it is a great international painting academy, the “Academie Julian.” Now it is one of the best French schools for graphic design and art direction. I have learned from great professionals in typography, photography, drawing and painting. This was the greatest experience for me!

What’s next for you?

I have a lot of future plans in photography and cinematography. I have the hope of working as an art director one day for the best current director, Wes Anderson. For the moment, I work freelance in art direction for advertising and commercials.

Thanks for the talk.

Watch Solitude »

See more work by Robin Risser.