Portrait photographer finds willing subjects in Wilson

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


Jerome Bonnet, a renowned French photographer, wrapped up a month of work on the streets of Wilson last week as the Eyes on Main Street artist-in-residence for the month of October.

Bonnet’s work has appeared on the covers of magazines such as Rolling Stone, Der Spiegel, D la Repubblica, Liberation, Telerama and Grazia.

His subjects include film stars, recording artists and heads of state.

But in Wilson, he has pointed his camera at regular folks he has encountered on the streets.

Bonnet has found subjects at a kickboxing gym, a church, a dance studio, the Reid Community Center, the Edna Boykin Cultural Center, the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum, Barton College and a Fike High School football game.

The 46-year-old photographer has spent his time strolling around on a bicycle looking for his subjects around Wilson.

“It is very nice to make pictures,” the Frenchman said. “It’s great because it’s very graphic, and the light is fantastic, and the people are nice. Most of the time it’s very pleasant.”

Bonnet left Saturday to return to his regular career of travel and portrait photography.

Coming to Wilson to participate in the Eyes on Main Street project was a nice break for Bonnet.

“From my point of view, it’s a great opportunity,” Bonnet said. “It’s a good idea for me.”

“When you can be one month in one place, even with a bike, and you are in a very small space and you have to work every day, you discover things. You make pictures every day in different ways than you are used to work.”

Bonnet recently purchased a new camera that is very sensitive, allowing the photographer to make pictures in low-light situations.

“It works so good. I try to find people where they are. If the light looks interesting, I ask them if I can take their picture,” Bonnet said.

The people in Wilson are very kind and willing to be subjects for Bonnet, the photographer said.

“People are very kind in that way because in France, people are mistrustful. Here, people are not mistrustful. For a foreigner making pictures here, people are very nice,” Bonnet said. “In France, like in many other places, people look at the photographer like they are going to steal something from them. ‘Why are you going to make (my) picture? What are you going to do with this picture?’”

Bonnet said he has been influenced by the work of many photographers through the years including German portrait photographer August Sander, who took hundreds of pictures of people in Germany prior to World War II, and American photographers Richard Avedon, who made many of the portraits of the world’s more famous people, and William Eggleston, who is widely recognized for his use of color in photography.

“When you are in the street, you think of Eggleston. I have so many photographers I like. When you come here you are so influenced by all of the American photographers and American films,” Bonnet said.

Bonnet said he appreciated the effort by Eyes on Main Street founder Jerome De Perlinghi to bring photographers to Wilson.

This is the beginning of the second year that photographers have spent a month living on Nash Street and journeying into the city make pictures for the photo festival.

“I don’t know how many years he will do that, maybe many, many years, but it will be incredible because photographers every month will look at this small American city and make pictures, and even if there is only three good pictures, imagine, after 10 years, you will have something,” Bonnet said.

The photographers will have different visions and pick unique things as their subjects, he said.

“Also, you will have the change of the city, but you will have different points of view,” Bonnet said. “You will have the portraits of the people by 100 photographers. It’s very interesting for the city as a document and for the photography of 2018. People are coming from all over the world with different styles. It is more interesting for photography, and I hope it’s interesting for the people who are here, too.”

Bonnet said he will spend a month editing the images he has captured of Wilson, and the collection will join the other photographic artists for the 2019 iteration of the Eyes on Main Street photo festival.

Bonnet’s other work can be found on his website, which is www.modds.fr/photographer/jerome-bonnet.