Nabile Quenum is a photographer whose multinational upbringing has informed his craft on countless
levels. He is a mainstay at Paris Fashion Week, where he caught our very own chic publisher Lily
Gatins and photographer (and Lereport interview subject) Adam Katz Siding conspiring on the streets
of Paris. Whether it is chronicling nearly extinct civilizations in
West Africa or photographing the masses at Fashion Week, Quenum’s aesthetic is
clean, and strictly centered on his subjects. It is a love story as Nabile, himself, tells it.
And he tells it in a way that is thoughtful and unencumbered by
Tell us about your childhood: Where were you raised? When did you start taking photographs?
Are any members of your family in the arts?
I was born in Paris in 1985, then at the age of 4 my family
and I moved to the Ivory Coast and then to Benin in West Africa. At that time I just
wanted to get out of there; but, I can now say that that life was really beautiful.
I grew up there, and came back to Paris in 2002 after few months in
My father used to take pictures all the time so a camera was always
around; but I really started photography when I broke up with my ex girlfriend.
That is when I bought my first camera, and then the second, and then the third….
The one that I’m using now is number 5.
When I started, I really thought that my pictures were good; but when
I look at them now, I can’t stop laughing. ? This is going to sound cliché but my
mother inspired me a lot, the way she was always running around from this place to
that one to give us what we needed. When I was young I wanted to
do something linked to mathematics, be dancer a soccer player or a writer.
I used to be a big reader, when I was young I was always with
a book (sometimes the book was bigger than me!) Riding on the back of
a motorcycle, at a party, in class; everywhere that I could, I read. Now parents say
to their children, “Turn off this video game or the computer”
in my case it was “Close the book!” ?I grew up with my mother, grandmother, and sister.
My father wasn’t really with us; he was always travelling. ?
In my family, everyone is in business, just one person is a writer, but that’s it.
Who are your favorite photographers?
My favorite photographers are Richard Avedon, André Kertész,
Willy Ronis, and Helen Levitt.
What is one of your most unforgettable fashion moments?
I don’t think that I have an unforgettable fashion moment. My eye falls in love with
something, when I get it, then something else appears and then I fall in love again….
But I can say that the unforgettable moments are when you have fun
with the people around during a Fashion Week.?
How would you describe your photographic style?
I really don’t know which style I have. I just shoot what I love. In fashion it’s the people
that don’t lie, that aren’t acting; the ones that express themselves with their outfit.
I don’t know how to explain it; but, like I said, it’s about love. First I’ll look around for
someone or something. Then I’ll see something or someone, I’ll fall in love, and then I’ll
run to that and try to take it the way my eyes saw it. I think we all do the same.
We shoot what we love. And after years and years people are going to tell you
that you have this style or that one. And then you are
going to understand yourself and your style a little bit more.
Rendez-vous in around 10 years and maybe I’ll have a better answer for you.
What is your worst habit?
Junk food for sure! Not when I was in a couple, but as a single person—and with
the work—I really don’t have any time. I love African food, but to cook it takes so long!
Which is your favorite Fashion Week?
My favorite Fashion Week is Paris; my atmosphere, my city (even if I still can get lost!)
Paris is me, and I am Paris. I feel free here.
Who are your favorite designers?
I have none. I can’t say, honestly, that I love this item more than that one.
If I had to choose, I would say Marjan Pejoski,
KTZ designer; Yohji Yamamoto; Boris Bidjan Saberi.
Do you enjoy taking portraits?
I’m interested in people and in myself. I used to do a lot of
self portraiture because I think that we change (body and mind); so, I really
wanted to keep a record of who I was. If I had time to do it, I’d do it for sure.
But it takes lot of time. My favorite place to do it is in front of my house.
I live on the first floor on a quiet street.
I also love Africa, there are so many things I don’t know about the
place I grew up. For example, last year I went to the north of the Benin
to take pictures of a few people of a disappearing civilization.
It was amazing, to stay with them, to learn stuff about them and take some pictures.
I’ll go back soon I hope.
Who is your ideal woman?
My ideal woman?! A beautiful kind girl with long
and amazing legs and a great dancer! That’s it!
An exhibition, but I’m taking my time. I want to go to Japan
Adam Katz Sinding