A look at Roberto Badin’s elegant and enigmatic photography

Brazilian born photographer Roberto Badin discusses growing up in South America, his recent campaign for McDonald’s Paris and his documentation of urban Japan

In its latest campaign for the French market, McDonald’s subverted traditional print advertising by the use of dreamlike photographs that showed views of Parisian architecture through rain-soaked windows, with only a discreet use of the golden arches logo to alert the viewer to the brand. The images were the work of Brazilian photographer Roberto Badin, and gave the fast food brand a touch of truly Parisian elegance.

Badin’s eye-catching campaign was not only artistically innovative, but also the perfect creative response to the brief of promoting home delivery. Badin says of the technique behind the McDonald’s campaign that he wanted to “bring out different textures of the image to find a large range of possibilities”.

“Essentially I used water and glass,” he continues. “But above all it’s a question of point of view. The perspective and framing were my essential tools for storytelling. The important thing is the balance of the image in its entirety, that is to say between the dynamic movement caused by the rain on the window, and the composition of the city frame in the background.”

McDonald’s campaign , by TWBA\Paris
McDonald’s campaign , by TWBA\Paris

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Badin started out as a fashion photographer with an interest in still life. His composition is considered and he pays special attention to framing, yet his images possess a feeling of spontaneity. He says that “colour or its absence in the photograph” isn’t important to him, and he often works with a muted palette and graphic style without losing a sense of humanity. Badin only works with ambient light so the effect is one of naturalism.

During his childhood in Brazil in the 70s, Japanese cartoons and TV shows were his visual stimulus, and he viewed Japan as a kind of “distant planet that made me dream”. So it’s no surprise that his ongoing personal project, Inside Japan, explores the country that inspired him a child. He first visited Japan in April 2016, and a consequent meeting with his publisher Benjamin Blanck led to the publication of a book of the series, which was launched with a photographic exhibition at Hotel Jules & Jim in Paris on March 25.

Badin cites the films of director Yasujiro Ozu, The Gourmet Solitaire comic strip by Jiro Taniguchi and Masayuki Kusumi, and Jean-Marie Bouisson’s Aesthetics of the Daily in Japan as inspiration for his own photographic documentation of the country.

Inside Japan
Inside Japan

Inside Japan and Badin’s commercial work, notably the recent McDonald’s campaign, demonstrate how he approaches a client brief in the same abstract way that he approaches personal subjects.

Deep-rooted stereotypes of urban Japan are turned upside when seen through the lens of Badin. Instead of depicting the familiar Instagram fodder of the bustling streets and neon signs of Tokyo, Badin goes off-piste with his camera to seek out quiet moments of reflection, capturing images of lone pedestrians set against Brutalist architecture.

His intriguing perspective and confident cropping bring to mind the images of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Badin’s image of a Japanese schoolgirl standing pensively under a shaft of light emitted from James Turrell’s sky window in the Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, demonstrates an artistic sensibility combined with an accomplished sense of lighting. A photograph of an empty green-carpeted room with chairs and tables in Bauhaus Red, Blue and Yellow, demonstrates a great understanding of colour.

Inside Japan
Inside Japan

An affinity with light and an ability to capture the sense of a bustling metropolis where there are still snatched moments of silence and loneliness, can also be seen in the McDonald’s print campaign, which emits the feeling of someone alone in bed, looking through the window on a rainy day.

On the difference between meeting a brief for a brand and making his own work, Badin explained: “It is certain that a commissioned work has a different control than personal work. We must respect a brief and the intentions of the client. Concerning McDonald’s, I had a lot of freedom to express myself and to bring my vision to a very strong conception made by the creatives Olivier Mularski and David Philip of TBWA\Paris,” he says. “The main point that brought us together was the photographic approach and the visual references in my work. There was no Photoshop filter or composition, and the minimum of post-production as possible.

“I always try to bring a personal vision and the experience of previous projects. Personal work is essential, not only for the research, it’s the expression of the work in its entirety.”

Inside Japan
Inside Japan

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