As a child growing up in Paris, François Halard rarely spoke and sought refuge in a quiet world full of beautiful textiles and objects. His passion for collecting and deep appreciation for beauty led him to become one of the world’s most respected photographers, documenting his own collections and the lives of icons, including Yves Saint Laurent and Cy Twombly. François spoke to Camilla Frances about life through his extraordinary lens.



Cy Twombly's home in Bassano in Teverina, photographed by François Halard for Cabana Magazine Issue 17


The most memorable trip I've taken: 

My first and only trip to Russia, I like to keep that memory alive. I went in my 20s when I was invited by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, we did a special Russian issue for Vogue Decoration Magazine. We started in Moscow, I was photographing Pavlovsk, the opera, the Hermitage Museum. It was winter, there was snow and ice everywhere, it was freezing, but very atmospheric. Nothing was open to the west then so it was like a private education. It was really special to be part of the YSL family at that age, and I worked with them a lot since. I shot their beautiful apartment in Paris. 

The best party I've ever been to:

In the 1990s, I went to the last Rothschild ball at Hotel Lambert; it was the most beautiful house and one of the last big balls of the 20th century. Everyone was there, from the opera, from the ballet, all lit by candlelight. It was the moment when Paris fashion was really booming, the new haute couture designer was Christian Lacroix. The chance to be there, photographing everyone and witnessing the last grand ball of the 20th century, well, it was very special.

My proudest achievement:

Making my own books. When I started adding to my body of work by making my own books, things really changed for me. I had my own art director, my friend Beda Achermann, and more control, more autonomy over my work and its creative direction. I have done more than 10 books now and it also changes the way people see you, you are taken more seriously. Books are timeless, they will outlive you.

The greatest challenge I've overcome:

Building my own personal body of work, building my own signature and point of view. I’ve been taking pictures since I was very young, 14 or 15, so it’s been an every day training. The challenge has always been to build my personal vision.

An object I'll never part with:

I’ll have to choose two. With my first pay cheque, I bought a Louis XVI four poster bed, which I still use and appreciate as an object, but not as a bed, it’s too small. I move it from home to home, and even stored it at my parents’ house for many years. I love it. The second object I'll never part with is the first piece of art I bought: a series of Cy Twombly lithographs from the 1970s. They follow me everywhere.

My guiltiest pleasure or greatest extravagance:

Collecting art, photography, objects, books and furniture. I am a collector, and it’s a real pleasure to be able to keep collecting to nourish my personal photography vocabulary. 

The best gift I've ever received:

When I was shooting Cy Twombly’s house in Gaeta, he gave me a lemon from his beautiful lemon trees. I still have it, and it sits on my desk. It is almost the impression of a lemon still, because it is so old now. I was very impressed by Cy’s own lemon photographs, so he gave me one. I have photographed it many times since, and I consider it the best gift I’ve ever been given because it was a starting point for me. After this, I began photographing my own objects and collections of objects, which has become a big focus of my work. So, the lemon is symbolic of this important change of direction - it is both an object and a memory.

My next weekend away:

My house in Greece, in the Dodecanese Islands. It is beautiful, and I really have the need to be there at the moment, to relax and recharge with my wife, the filmmaker Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat, and our family and friends.

My favorite flea market:

Paul Bert Serpette in Paris, where else? It is the best. I love all flea markets, but this one really is the best. My parents, both designers, used to take me there every Sunday so, really, it was a formative place for me. With my Dad especially, it was an education, taking me around the stalls and talking me through everything. It was important for training my eye. I still go there whenever I can, I have kept that habit. But I go with friends now and we talk and share stories of objects.

I would describe my childhood as:

My parents were both designers and very cultured. We lived in a beautiful house and every weekend followed a similar pattern - always one museum and one flea market, wherever we were. However, as a child, I was very reclusive. I had difficulties with speech and communication, so I would retreat into my room and into my own world. I surrounded myself with books and fabrics and objects, I was teaching myself about these things. I was lucky to have a beautiful bedroom, which was one of the first things I photographed. Photography was my refuge, and beauty, both then and now.

I feel most confident when wearing:

APC jeans or Dries Van Noten. Simple.

My signature scent:

Melograno, by Santa Maria Novella.

My go-to recipe:

Bottarga (fish roe) pasta from Alex de Betak. Delicious.

The person I call for good advice:

The Greek Gods!

The person I call for a good time:

Everything for me is about connecting with beauty and art - it is my obsession, you could say. I like connecting with people who share this obsession. In New York I have a friend, the artist Thomas Fougeirol, with whom I used to have a weekly dinner, where we would speak about nothing but art and painting. We’d go to the same restaurant, at the same time each week, usually order the same things from the menu, and just talk about art. Nothing else was on the table. It's a pleasure.

Just One More Thing

One Master: I cannot choose just one. Picasso, Basquiat and Matisse.

One Muse: Lee Miller

One City: Arles

One Book: Musee imaginaire, Andre Malraux

One Museum: Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens 

One Flower: Peonies and white lilies.

One word to describe my style: Eclectic.

One word to describe Cabana: Eclectic.



Cy Twombly's studio in Gaeta, photographed by François Halard


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François Halard is a key contributor in Cabana Issue 21, the birthday issue, which will be published in April. To read more about François Halard's work, and see more of his photography, pre-order your copy of Cabana Issue 21.

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