Spotlight #8: Maxime Simoncelli on his nature inspired photography

The last few month I’ve been terribly crushing on Instagram. It’s a great way to see behind the scenes photos from artists, keep track on what people are working on, and of course discover new talent. Through reposts, tags or inspirational accounts I discovered several artists I featured here on Bleaq and whose work keep me scrolling through Instagram several times a day. I haven’t kept track on how I came across the account of Maxime Simoncelli, on Instagram known as SYLFVR (formerly Iamthewoodendoors), but I’ve been a fan ever since and always enjoy his wonderful nature inspired photographs. Maxime’s work is desolate and mysterious, and has an occult, witchy vibe in those scarce times he uses a model. I asked Maxime if he wanted to tell you a bit more about his beautiful pictures and inspiration today. Enjoy!

Maxime Simoncelli website

 Bleaq: Could you introduce yourself and your work in a few sentences?
MS: Hello, my name is Maxime Simoncelli, I am 22, living in south west France. I always like to consider myself as a nature freak, my life basically revolves around it, that is where I feel the best. I also love engravings, history, mythology and music. And good mead!

Describing my work is a very difficult thing for me, I often lack the necessary distance from what I do. Nevertheless, I used to never include human presences in my artwork, and dedicate it fully to nature, but things have changed a bit the last months, certainly because I grew up. I try to work with atmospheres, personal feelings and emotion, as well as symbols to create a blend of what I am, and set it in tune with what I see. Lately, I have been focusing on analog photography, which imposed me to think more about the outcome of what I do, instead of spontaneously thinking about what this or that series will be about. It is quite a complex process in my mind, heavily inspired by music and my surroundings.









How did you get into photography? Did you have a specific moment when you knew you wanted to do more with photography
MS: This is no incredible tale, but photography is somewhat a family heritage. My great-grandfather was a professional photographer, and my father after him, who used to be an amateur photographer back when photography was analog only. He stopped his hobby when the digital era began, and I thus took the camera he had bought and took simple pictures from time to time. It was not a big deal for me back then, but it became one.

When I got in Lycée (the French high school), I had a friend who had a reflex and we discussed about our experiences, and it led me to buy a reflex myself. Photography then quickly grew on me and I started to wander about in the woods on weekends with my camera. I think three years ago was the time when it got really serious, as I expressed the wish to enter photography school. I eventually did, but it did not work well, quite the contrary in fact. I dropped the hobby off for a time, but two or three months after, I got back to it. At that time, I knew photography had become something more essential to me than I thought. Now, here I am, three years later, with my cameras packed in my bag every time I get out.






Your work is heavily inspired by nature. How important are you surroundings for you and your work? What other inspirations do you have?
MS: It is vital. Without nature, I would have the hardest of time creating anything. I tried photography in the city, but it is almost impossible for me. In the forest, I have time to think, time to relax and let the winds flow through me and let them choose where I will go next. The beauty of nature is everything to me, it is an incredible feeling, one I cherish the most. It is the most important part of the process, this relation I have with nature. I could go on and on in my native language, but it is a bit harder to express my deepest feelings in English, haha.

In fact, I think every single picture I took had something to do with nature, even when I include humans in it (my girlfriend, that is): the links between man and nature, their relationship, myths and legends concerning nature. I see my future work as the visual representation of the unconditional bond that exists between man and nature. I hope so.

Of course, I have other inspirations, and music is one of the most important after nature. There is not a day when I do not listen to music or play some guitar. It is really vital to me. In fact, a lot of my series are named after band’s album, songs, etc. I would say that music indicate me what atmosphere I will include in my picture. It is also a very important part of the editing process, I always listen to music while editing pictures, and I think it modifies the final result.

Then, also my love for J.R.R Tolkien’s work. I am really what we would call a Tolkien nerd, and from time to time it is an inspiration in my photography. More generally, myths and legends also inspire me, and those two things are part of my plans for future series.







Who are your favourite artists? How do they inspire your work?
MS: Picking up a few favourite artists is hard, really. I think the “artist” that inspires me the most is the band Agalloch, from which song “I am the wooden doors” I’ve taken my pseudo.

My favourite visual artist is Gustave Doré. His engraving are stellar, most notably his illustrations for the Divine Comedy by Dante. My favourite piece from these is the Celestial Rose, an incredible circular composition that amaze me each time I see it.

I am also deeply in love with Albrecht Dürer‘s works, most notably The Knight, Death and the Devil, which is by far one of my all-time favourite engravings.

Modern pen and ink artists like Richey Beckett and Sin Eater are also two of my favourite. I will pick two more artists, Fursy Teyssier, leader of the french band Les Discrets, who is also an illustrator. His cover art is an inspiration for me. I’ve had the luck to meet and discuss with him, and it was an incredible night. Finally, John Bauer, whose rendition of the Swedish folklore is a gem in the story of art.

They inspire me, I believe, in the way I perceive art and in the way I work on composition. They teach me a lot on how art works. Their art changed how I see the world and what I choose to depict myself. Yeah, that’s it.







It’s probably like asking parents which of their kids they like best, but do you have a piece or pieces from your work that you like best? If so, why that one?
MS: Indeed, it is really hard ! Maybe the first picture of my Iatwd // Human series as well as the whole Iatwd series, because they marked a big change in my art and what I wished to do with it. They were some kind of turning point in my life.

Maybe also the third picture out of my latest series FORESTCROWN, which was my first series using only an analog camera.

But well, I’m never pleased entirely with what I do, and now with the distance I would have done things differently. But it’s part of the life-long learning art is I think (and I’m still a baby for that matter)!


– The third picture of the FORESTCROWN series




– Four pictures from the ‘Iamthewoodendoors’ series


With many social networking websites it’s almost hard to keep track of everything! How important is the internet for you as an artist?
MS: You know, I used to be on even more social networking websites before! I’ve narrowed down the number a bit (which is still huge), but I think it is a necessary part of the process nowadays. Step aside nature, internet fascinates me, and I am always willing to try new things or do things on my own.

Internet has given me the opportunity to discover amazing artists, learn about new things.  And, of course, to spread my art and to show it. As a really shy, insecure person about his art, I would probably never have exposed my work like that in public. Internet has given me this opportunity.








Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?
MS: You know, this is a tough question here! I’ve really enjoyed Arto Paasilinna‘s books lately. Funny little stories, often a bit far-fetched, but always rooted in a deep love for nature. I’d recommend The Best Village in the World, my favourite. It is the story of a flourishing village built around a renovated church in Finland, while the rest of the world is on the verge of destruction.





That’s it! A big thanks to Maxime for sharing his thoughts! If you want to see more of his work be sure to check out his website, his Instagram account or his Etsy shop. Thank you for reading, hope you have a lovely weekend.

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