Fashion is in flux. Not only has its dark underbelly been exposed — subsequently throwing the industry into disarray — but social media has circumvented the traditional process of ‘making it,’ therein providing a path for talented young image-auteurs to slip in the side door. Julien Boudet, Parson’s drop-out, street-style star, and now, industry big-wig ‘Bleu Mode,’ is one such photographer to capitalize on the renaissance—and he’s done a damn good job of it.
Picking up a point-and-shoot upon his arrival in New York from Southern France, Boudet’s first photography experience was documenting the city skyline for French Facebook friends. But it was Boudet’s personal style, developed on the streets of Sète and refined by Brooklyn’s thrift culture, that caught the attention of Manhattanites — namely, a blogger who, after discovering Boudet in Soho, debuted the budding creative on the scene. A decade later, Boudet has become the backstage staple behind Bella Hadid, the street-style photographer models dress for and the go-to for brands like Burberry and Adidas. Simultaneously, he’s been working on impressive individual projects outside of the industry, returning to his home to find fodder for his first book, Bleus Visages.
While the photographer has long-since overcome the growing pains of making a name, Boudet is not one to rest on his laurels — now setting his sights on even higher heights. Make no mistake, Bleu Mode is still in his blue period, until further notice.
COOLS: You always had an interest in fashion, but how did you land on street style as your way into the industry?
It was a chance to break in other than the traditional process, which at that time was assisting a big photographer for 10 years for no money, always stuck in someone’s shadow. It was also unlimited access to top models because it was all on the street, so I thought it was a cool way to train my eye. Eventually, it became repetitive and I wanted to show clients I have something different than other photographers, something to really offer.
COOLS: And what do you have to offer?
I pay attention to details — I like to see things that a regular person wouldn’t necessarily see. I try to always find a very specific aesthetic and focus on certain things that aren’t obvious. It’s so hard to explain, but I try to find the beauty.
COOLS: I’m interested because, despite all your work in fashion, your first book was documenting your return to your hometown. Why was that?
I’m really attached to my hometown and love that they care about clothes but don’t really know about fashion. I wanted to do something unexpected, something very personal, that was born outside of a Chanel show in Paris.
COOLS: You’ve said in the past that shooting Kaia Gerber has been a highlight for you. Why? What makes a great subject?
Of the most famous supermodels, I think her face is both so unique and so beautiful at the same time. There are many people whose faces work on camera but are not necessarily ‘good-looking,’ but her bone structure does both.
COOLS: It’s a really interesting time in fashion because everyone is acknowledging how much power photographers have had for so long…with many allegedly abusing that power. Have you noticed models having more autonomy and taking control?
I think because I haven’t been in the industry for decades I haven’t noticed a change, compared to someone who’s been working for 20 years. For me, I never wanted to seem like the boss on set. That’s just not how I work. I would so much rather everyone have fun to create a great photo than have this power dynamic in place.
COOLS: There’s also been this push towards representing diversity in races and body image, do you think that’s a permanent change or a response to a trend?
I think it’s permanent. Now that it’s here I don’t see it going backward …you just couldn’t get away with that.
COOLS: What do you think still needs to change in fashion?
It’s a great question. There are a lot of things, but one is people being judged on followers rather than actual talent.
COOLS: It’s interesting because you have so many followers, you have that big audience.
Yeah, I do, but at the same time, I still try to show what I can do. I’ll push myself to experiment and post photos that won’t get as many likes as a picture of Kaia, for example. I just want to show what I can do.