Marine Toux is a French photographer and video maker based in Paris, whose work often features narratives and stories. Her colorful fragments and portraits of young people are simultaneously melancholic, sensual, and self-assured. We had the opportunity to speak with this talented artist about her photography, influences and creative process.
Can you tell us about your journey as a photographer and how you got started in the industry?
I started photography at the age of 17 by joining a student photo association. It was the beginning of a love story ! After graduating in literature and communication in Nantes (western France), I decided I wanted to be a photographer rather than a journalist, so I moved to Paris to study photography at ENS Louis-Lumière.
I graduated in 2015 and started working for Lomography (a brand of analog cameras). There I learned a lot about analog photography, met people related to the industry and was often able to experiment with films and cameras. It was at this point that I chose to shoot analog as much as possible, both in my personal work and for commissions.
I started out in the industry photographing friends, then sending a lot of emails to modeling agencies and magazines, and contacting new fashion brands on Instagram. Finally, after 2.5 years, I quit my day job to become a full-time freelance photographer.
Your work often features narratives and stories. How do you come up with the ideas for your photo series?
I decided to focus on fashion photography because I wanted to find a way to express myself and I thought fashion would leave me a lot of creative freedom.
Most of the time I shot series because I want to tell a story. I write a lot to prepare, create a narrative and try to find a way to connect everything to the story: the location, the kind of films, the clothes etc. I’m inspired by a lot of things like art, movies, music, periods of time (like the 80’s or 90’s) and I linked that to an emotion I want to express.
I guess what I want to share depends a lot of my own state of mind. It can be about love, loneliness, nostalgia, freedom, …
It’s clear that body positivity and beauty are important themes in your work. Can you tell us more about why these topics are so significant to you and how they influence your photography?
These subjects are significant in my work because they are important to me. I project a part of myself in my images – I guess that’s why I only photograph women – and as a feminist I try to participate in giving another vision of women, away from the male gaze. I strongly believe that diversity of representations is essential to our empowerment.
Although, I don’t intentionally choose my models to make a statement, I am inspired by all kind of women, professional models or not, it’s part of my aesthetic process to look for beauty everywhere. In my work, I also try as much as possible to collaborate with brands that care about representing all women, instead of continuing to show the same beauty standards we all know.
“I guess what I want to share depends a lot of my own state of mind. It can be about love, loneliness, nostalgia, freedom.”
Once, in an interview (from 2017), you said, “Like in many industries, many people still assume that if you are a woman, you cannot carry anything heavy, repair anything, and that you know nothing about technique. I have heard comments related to these things when I was in a photography studio, for example. Most of the time, it is just small details, but I find it important that this sexist way of seeing things is no longer seen as ‘normal’ or ‘logical’.” Now, six years later, how much and what do you think has changed?
Well I don’t work in a studio anymore, so I don’t face this kind of comments anymore! This kind of behavior has been widely pointed out in the last few years, so I tend to think the situation is getting better. But I think the challenges women still face are much more systemic.
A study conducted in 2019 and 2021 by the French collective Les Filles de la Photo raised many points about this. Like, for example, that while women were in the majority in photography school classes, they were only a third of the professionals. That if women apply as much or more to awards or festivals, the success rate is still higher among men. That the presence of women in commissioned work is much lower than that of men. And overall women earn much less money as photographers than men. The numbers in the report are blatant, it’s sometimes discouraging.. Again, I think representation is key: the lack of media coverage of women’s work makes them doubt themselves and their value, and it become a vicious cycle. For me the barriers we face are interconnected, whether institutional or internalized, so I suppose supporting each other to fight the impostor syndrome could be the first step towards better recognition of women in photography. There is still a lot of work to be done!
How has living and working in Paris influenced your creative process and style?
I’ve been living in Paris for over a decade and I love this city. Since I mainly shoot outdoors, I’m always looking for new spots and Paris has so many to offer, of all kind : historical, modern, natural, etc. I like to show my favorite places in my photos, away from the touristy places that everyone has already seen.
Lately, I’ve started a collection of series based on a simple process: 1 girl, 1 film and 1 arrondissement. It’s a way to explore Paris and the places I love, to add new faces to my portfolio and to challenge myself.
“I would just say to do and do again. And maybe fail, but that’s okay.”
Your work also includes video production. Can you speak to the differences and similarities in your approach to photography and videography?
I started making video about 3 years ago, when I bought a VHS camera from Cash Converter. I’m still learning a lot about it, it’s a work in progress, a candid exploration of a new medium. I like the aesthetics, the simplicity of shooting and I like being able to tell more stories because it’s easier to get a narrative with video. But the process is very different from photography, the editing still takes me a long time. The possibilities are endless once you have the material and it can be a bit overwhelming. I think I’m more efficient when I work within constraints.
Some of my videos are a teaser for a photoshoot. For me, they introduce the mood I want to inspire, through music for example. Others are more personal works, undefined artistic objects, like “Face aux feux du soleil” which is both a dance video and a story about freedom, and is complemented by photos. Or “Rails Crossing”, shot in Japan, which mixes an exploration of the city of Takamatsu with an interpretation of Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore”.
Besides, what I like in video is to work with other people, for Rails Crossing I asked my friend Yuki to do the voice over and the music was custom made by my boyfriend César who is a composer (it’s very convenient to experiment).
You have exhibited your work in several exhibitions in Paris. Can you share with us what you hope people take away from experiencing your art in person?
Having your photos printed in 40x60cm is very different than seeing them on your phone ! I like the idea that people can see my work differently and take the time to stop on each image.
For my latest exhibition I wanted to make a selection that would allow people to dive into my world. I started with four photos from Los Angeles and built the exhibition around them, choosing images from different series but which had similarities in colors, lights etc. I added a few dried flowers, a VCR television to broadcast my videos and there you go, welcome to my world!
“Be careful with social networks. There are trends, algorithms and your visibility can change quickly. It can be challenging but you have to resist as much as possible the idea to change your work to please an audience.”
How do you see the role of photography evolving in today’s digital age?
My answer is going to be a bit generic but today – more than ever in the digital age – photography is omnipresent in our daily lives.
Our time is about immediacy, we don’t take as much time to read long texts because we have quite a short attention span, so an image has much more chance to impact the largest number of people.
The images that surround us influence us, even unconsciously, for example the more we show certain things, the more it fits in the normality. It is then more than ever the time to use photography to convey messages, points of view.
What advice would you give to aspiring female photographers looking to break into the industry?
I don’t really feel entitled to give advice, as I still sometimes struggle to follow the advice I’m given. But I would just say to do and do again. And maybe fail, but that’s okay.
I’ve spent too much time preparing for shoots only to not do them because it seemed out of reach now that everything was thought out. Follow your instinct, don’t overthink and just go for it. And share your work, share your ideas even if you’re not sure, you never know what you might get out of it: new ideas, a new perspective or just support, and that’s a great feeling that will help you go further.
Last thing, be careful with social networks. There are trends, algorithms and your visibility can change quickly. It can be challenging but you have to resist as much as possible the idea to change your work to please an audience.