Sebastian Erras Captures a Personal Side of Shopping in Paris and Lisbon
Photography as an art form is one that has always fascinated me. The way the camera captures colors, shapes, human expressions, the world around us both built and natural creating a frozen moment in time that can stir the deepest of emotions within us. When I recently came across the work of the German photographer Sebastian Erras I was reminded of exactly why photography is such a sensational form of art. So, of course, I reached out to Sebastian Erras to learn more and share his story and, specifically, his magnificent Re-Tale project!
La Pharmacie, Paris
Sebastian Erras’ love for photography began with a trip to Massai Mara in Kenya. “It was such a unique experience and opportunity to go to Kenya, that I wanted to keep some memories in form of photographs,” said Sebastian when I asked about this trip. With an old analogue SLR and a few lenses, he began capturing the wildlife. “That’s how it all started.”
Upon returning to Germany, Sebastian continued to explore wildlife and photography, taking a particular interest in birds and orchids. After studying business and marketing, Sebastian decided to make his passion his work and became a fulltime photographer. With a love for design and architecture, he specialized in interior and architectural photography.
Traveling the world and exploring new cultures and things is also a passion of Sebastian’s, so it is only natural that much of his work combines his two loves – travel and design. Which brings me to his fabulous Re-Tale project!
Read on to hear all about it from Sebastian Erras and to see some of my favorites from the project’s two destinations, Paris and Lisbon.
Love Happens: What inspired the Re-Tale project?
Sebastian Erras: The project was a collaboration with the Italian printing company Pixart Printing. We wanted to create some interesting content for their customers. I had done a previous series on floors, where I photographed incredible mosaic and tile floors in 3 different cities in Europe. So, to continue the concept we focused this time on local craftsmanship and retail shops. We pass by shops every day but rarely get to know more about them. For the “re-tale” series we wanted to portray the owner in front of their shop and also tell their story.
Patisserie Boulangerie Boris, Paris
Lh: Why Paris and Lisbon?
Sebastian Erras: We picked Paris because of its history and architecture. Also, the fact that I am very familiar with the city made it an easier pick.
“Paris is so beautiful that travelers are often blinded by the glow of its tourist hot spots. But if you dig below the surface, you will uncover another story of the city. A story made by the people who put art and creativity at the core of their everyday life. A look inside some of the Paris shop fronts, at the life going on behind them, will bring you closer to the vibrant pulse of the city.
The beauty of Paris is more than its amazing museums and monuments. Ancient families of craftsman and young designers, food lovers and music addicts, even opticians and dry cleaners, display a unique savoir-faire that adds creativity to everyday life. Their workshops, laboratories, and boutiques tell a different tale of the city. Next time you go to Paris, take some time to delve into this world: you will not regret it.”
With Lisbon, we wanted to show a city that has become a very popular travel destination lately but also has a rich history.
“Lisbon’s light is unique. The sun shines spectacularly even in winter months. Its rays bounce off every corner of its streets. They highlight the beautiful shapes of its old stores and workshops, the unchanging background to centuries of the city’s life. The same light seems to shine from the people who work in them: welcoming, smiling men and women who love their land and its history.
Entering the most beautiful shops in Lisbon is a way to discover the city in a different way. There is an authenticity there, a mirror on how the great events of history were transformed by the craft and creativity of the Portuguese genius. Lisbon’s craftsmen and merchants seem to bear the sun of the city inside them: they are always ready to shake your hand and welcome you. Don’t forget to meet a few of them when you visit Lisboa.”
Dreaming of visiting Portugal? Check out Lh’s
Lh: How were the shops selected?
Sebastian Erras: We had a few criteria, like the facade, the kind of business they are doing and the typography of the shop’s name. With these guidelines, we started our research online and then tried to find shops that were willing to collaborate with us for this project.
‘Suspenders for Men Sold Here’ – Camisaria Pitta, Lisbon
Lh: Did you have any specifically intriguing encounters with any of the shop owners?
SE: When I was in Lisbon and had to photograph the famous cafe “A Brasileira”, they had set up their terrace with big umbrellas, blocking the view, just in front of their cafe. When I explained to him that I couldn’t take a picture of the facade he was more than happy to help me move all the umbrellas, chairs and tables so that I could get the image that I wanted. Having such cooperative collaborators for such a project is not always a given, as most of the time I only had a few minutes of their time to take the images, while the business continues.
‘Coffee and Culture’ at A Brasileira, Lisbon
Lh: What was your favorite part of this project?
Sebastian Erras: I always love to discover a new city and meet the locals. I try to avoid classic tourist guides and hotspots, and rather go discover some of the lesser known areas. Recommendations by the locals are always a good hint and like this, I move from one recommendation to another.
The best part was to meet the owners and listen to their stories. Some of the shops I pass by every day but never really knew about their history. It was very interesting to discover some of their stories, like the exterminator shop of the Arouze family that even played a part in Disney’s “Ratatouille” movie and they also wrote a guide about Paris but from a rat’s perspective.
Le Bonhomme de Bois, Paris
Lh: Do you plan to continue Re-Tale in other cities?
Sebastian Erras: I would love to do a European series about historic shops and their beautiful facades. For the moment I kind of keep on working on that when I photograph travel reportage about cities. I always keep an eye out on these beautiful facades, but haven’t really started working fully on this idea yet.
Lh: Do you have any other projects in the works? Or dreams of projects you wish to take on?
Sebastian Erras: Currently I am still working on my “floors” series. I’ll try to visit some more European cities next year. This year I have worked on a number of travel articles about different European cities. This is something I enjoy a lot and want to continue next year. I still have a few ideas for projects that require a lot of dedication and time, but I am still waiting for the moment that gives me the first spark to actually start it. Being able to “travel for work” and discover all these beautiful cities, countries and meet so many interesting people is something I appreciate a lot and I couldn’t have asked for a better job!
More of our favorites from Sebastian Erras’ Re-Tale Project:
‘Portuguese Versailles’ – Tous: Ourivesaria Alianca, Lisbon
‘History Written in Gold’ – Joalharia Do Carmo, Lisbon
‘Doll’s Last Resort’ – Hospital de Bonecas, Lisbon
Bistrot Melac, Paris
Fish La Boissonerie, Paris
To learn more about Sebastian Erras and see more of his beautiful photographs visit him online at www.sebastianerras.com.
Words and interview by Anna Beck Bimba
All photographs ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting