It all started from a joke. François Dourlen, a history and French language teacher based in Cherbourg, France, wanted to make a fun photo to decorate the bedroom of his friend’s newborn baby. So Dourlen superposed a picture of a character from My Little Pony on a statue of Napoleon in his hometown. Dozens of thousands of likes and followers later, he was being hailed as one of the most creative and promising French photographers at the moment, and is now conquering the United States! He was recently featured on Fox News and Good Morning America on ABC.

“Their kid’s name was Leon, so I called it ‘My Little Neypo Leon,’” explains the artist. “I posted it on Facebook and many friends liked it and shared on their own profiles. I was working in Paris at this time, and I decided to make other photos with this idea.

François Dourlen

The next one was a pole dancer on a subway pole: people liked it even more! Then I created my own Facebook page, simply called ‘The photos of François’. And here it was,” Dourlen told uInterview. “I’m not a photographer, I just bought a reflex camera for my daughter’s birth, just to take beautiful photos when I walk her in the stroller.”

“IT’S ALL ABOUT PLEASURE”

The idea is pretty simple, and that’s why people like it. It basically plays on the nostalgic streak that most people have, by recreating movie and anime scenes in real life. “It’s like the ‘madeleine de Proust’. I think it reminds people the culture they grew up with. It’s all about pleasure. I think what people liked the most was when I made photos with Back To The Future, Saint Seiya or Disney characters though People want their daily photo,” he told the French mobile communications company Orange for their short-movies series Long Story Short.

Dourlen’s photos are also made to represent his hometown, showing many of its well-known places and its most beautiful aspects. “I was born in Cherbourg, and almost always lived here, so the first thing that made me feel proud was seeing everyone speaking about this town,” he said. “And the people from Cherbourg are happy to see their town mentioned all around the world!”

The photographer likes to keep the whole process simple as his first idea. He basically just goes for a walk, and when a place reminds him of a movie scene, he pulls out his camera and his iPhone, finds the image he wants to insert on Google, and then simply takes his shot. “It’s like an association of ideas,” he said. “For example, when I saw that rock called ‘La Roche qui Pend’ in my hometown, I instantly thought about this scene from The Lion King where Simba and Mufasa stand on this tall rock,” he added. “But when I work with a company like Netflix, they directly give me photos from their series, so I just have to put my stuff on it.”

François Dourlen

The 31-year-old artist is indeed working with companies, which often want to promote their new products using this creative ideas. “It’s always kind of funny,” he assures. “For example, I put Genghis Khan from Netflix’s Marco Polo on a wooden horse in a fun fair,” he said with a lopsided smile. “I took Saul from Better Call Saul when he drives, and replaced his car with a bus in London. I used well-known places in Europe for Netflix, but they also sent me to Los Angeles and Las Vegas to make some photos earlier this year.” They’ll soon be posted on Netflix’s social media.

Dourlen also worked with Sony France, which asked him to make photos about a few games to promote the PlayStation 4. “They send me the games, and I have to play to them so I’ll immerse myself in the game’s universe. They gave me a Sony phone, and I had to recreate some scenes from the games in real life, just like I already did with movies.” Is there a better job than this, seriously?

François Dourlen

As a new school year is starting soon, Dourlen is trying to prepare himself to his pupils’ remarks. “They think it’s pretty cool,” he said with an ounce of pride. “They can’t stop commenting on my photos. When they see me on the U.S. TV, they comment, ‘Look at him, it’s my teacher!’,” he laughed. “To them, since there’s an iPhone, and American series, everything is here. I think I’m gonna hear from them about these interviews very soon… It’s not a secret anymore in Cherbourg that my photos are getting bigger.”

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