“You can’t avoid what you are”

From law over cinema to photography, the Belgian-born - now living in Paris - photographer Lionel Samain surely knows an opportunity when he sees one. Although he started experimenting with his father’s camera at a young age, photography was not what aroused his passions. Cinema turned out to be his true love, but when journalist friends asked him to join them on assignments, photography re-entered his life and has, over time, taken up an ever bigger slice of the professional cake. It didn’t take long before he found himself doing portraiture, then taking up fashion photography for magazine editorials and advertising campaigns. 

In spite of all the glamour that surrounds the beauty and fashion industry, Lionel Samain is a modest man and regards himself as a collector of images and portraits that help him understand who we are, and reconstruct a visual identity.

His photographic style was - and sometimes still is - heavily influenced by his cinematic background. Being a self-taught man however never curbed his enthusiasm. On the contrary. For those who are eager to experiment, lack of schooling is considered an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Not hampered by technicalities, Lionel Samain masters the art of producing images that stand out. Over the years, he has experimented with different techniques, some of which may now be regarded as his trademark. It is not beyond him to revert to techniques he has not used in years, trying them out with a renewed vigour, in a different context, in a new perspective. But Lionel does not dwell in the past. He is highly intrigued by the interaction between fashion, beauty and technology and all related opportunities the future holds in store.

Lionel Samain’s images breathe an aesthetic in which beauty and mysticism are heavily intertwined. An image is more than just an image. As ‘beauty’ is a relative concept, his aim is to disturb. Delicately. To trigger curiosity. To make people think. Over the years he has found his own language to convey that slightly disturbing message that talks of beauty, delicacy and improbability, always covered by this mystifying layer that is so typical of his style.

His images are the result of a genuine search for harmony, for a subtle balance between fragility and improbability. They are the result of intricately blending light, reflection and illusion, and so he creates a kind of visual trap that leaves us somehow stirred and forces us to look once more.

Lionel Samain has worked for clients like Univeral, Pias, Nike, Bouygues, Hochtief Development, BAT, Philip Morris, Total, Ergon, Repetto, Epson, Belgian National Orchestra, IFM, Scarlet, Arte International with agencies as Gannaca, Air, Ici Londres, Roadbook.

His work has been published in Le Monde, M Le Magazine du Monde, Standard Magazine, Vanity Fair, Frame, Victoire, Elle, Marie-Claire, Goedele, Pylone, Traffic, Le Soir, La Libre, The Daily Telegraph, Le Vif, Trends, Biba, Tsugi ...