Eric Houdoyer: The Suspense Effect of High Contrast Street Photography

Extracting the abstract out of the real 

© Eric Houdoyer: portrait of the photographer 

"I like it when one is not certain what one sees. When we do not know why the photographer has taken a picture and when we do not know why we are looking at it, all of a sudden we discover something that we start seeing. I like this confusion."

- Saul Leiter

© Eric Houdoyer

© Eric Houdoyer

© Eric Houdoyer

To understand the visual expression of Eric Houdoyer, a French photographer based in Paris, is primarily to understand the function of high-contrast street photography. This technique, perfectly adapted to both monochrome and color photo styles, shows a clear delineation between dark and light. The purpose is to create intense tones and clear contrasts, pitting vibrant colors against heavy back shadows. These images inevitably develop a sort of dramatic, suspense-provoking cinematographic effect. 

© Eric Houdoyer: Eclipse, 2015. GADCOLLECTION Gallery,

In my sense, Eric Houdroyer's approach to creation is purely technical, the one of a professional that perfectly masters the effects of lighting and contrast. His "black and color" photos, as described by Gad Edery, of night sceneries and urban daily life details are instantly captured on the spot. As he explains, the dark structures the photo, and the light gets displayed on the colored zones, serving as a projector. " I am attracted by the dark. My idea is to extract the abstract from the real. A human presence is simply part of the geometrical construction of the frame. The color element enhances the abstract, " Houdoyer explains. Seeking for geometry is often linked to high contrast street photography, as geometric shapes can form graphic silhouettes and provide a "frame within a frame" for subjects, adding a dramatic element to the image.


80% of Houdoyer's photos are taken in the morning, between 9H30 and 11 a.m, when the sun is at a low angle. Long shadows caused by the sun or light source coming in from an angle elongate shadows and add them as ‘characters' to a scene. His reflex Canon Eos 750 D camera with a telephoto lens of 80 300 mm puts him at a safe distance from the object, creating a sense of detachment.  Houdoyer dedicates 1 to 2 hours per week to photography, almost always following the same itinerary: the emblematic districts of Paris such as Montparnasse, La Mote-Picquet-Grenelle up to the Ecole Militaire

© Eric Houdoyer: Piliers, 2016. GADCOLLECTION Gallery,

© Eric Houdoyer: Géométrie, 2016. GADCOLLECTION Gallery,

Houdoyer's attempt to show the invisible, to create images that oscillate between imagination and reality, is highly symbolic, evoking paintings of Edward Hooper and photographs of the iconic Saul Leiter. He manages to frame his photos in an abstract, hidden way that appeal's to the viewer's imagination but are simultaneously simple conceptual ideas.


Color is used as a form of composition, meaning that in Houdoyer's images, we are looking at the placement of vibrant color patches within the frame that give essential meaning to the photograph. Houdoyer's motifs of trivial, daily urban life such as streets, public transport, or cafés illustrate Leiter's statement from the 2006 interview with Mitch Teich on WUWM’s Lake Effect: “I believe that the most uninteresting thing can be very interesting.“ 


On the other hand, the richness of Houdoyer's reds, and the luxury brilliance of his blacks, typical for haute couture photography, remind me, on a more personal note, of famous Fendi fashion covers, as well as the iconic Paolo Roversi's image of the model Anna Cleveland in a red frock from Rei Kawakubo's spring 2015 collection.

 © Eric Houdoyer: Pose, 2017. GADCOLLECTION Gallery,

© Eric Houdoyer

© Eric Houdoyer: Conversation, 2017. GADCOLLECTION Gallery,

Houdoyer's bold, striking high contrast images result from careful framing, seeking locations that are not too crowded, and reducing the elements in the frame to only the minimum required. His photos are barely manipulated in the post process, as he doesn't want to divert what he sees. Only the contrasts are enhanced. Always in his bubble while taking photos, Houdoyer's images are primarily captured in the urban environment, even though he has recently started to more explore the abstract landscape photography. 

© Eric Houdoyer

In all of his images, the individual is present only in the form of a silhouette, reduced to a simple setting element. Houdoyer explains this absence of presence with a thought that arises as an aftermath of the photographic process: "We often talk about the destruction of nature, but a human being is in the state of disappearance in the urban environment, slowly eliminated amid a setting that he created himself." 

© Eric Houdoyer: Fil, 2016. GADCOLLECTION Gallery,

© Eric Houdoyer

Besides the artistic idea behind the photo and technical execution, Houdoyer also explains that he does require a certain period to take possession of a photograph: "I capture, I see, I believe in the photograph, but I need some time to get convinced, a bit of time for it to mature." 


Today, Eric Houdoyer is an established name in the world of street photography, with expositions in Kyoto and Metzuru in Japan, as part of the International Shoebox Art Exhibition Tour 2016, Germany, United States, Australia, and Paris, and publication in eye photography and daily photograph since 2016. About 30 of his photos are exposed in the photographic gallery GADCOLLECTION, which specializes in art photography and is situated in the 4th district of Paris, known as Le Marais.


"There's a kind of John Cage in the photographs of Eric Houdoyer, a particular little rhythmic music, there's also a sort of reminiscence of the paintings of Pierre Soulages, his black dazzle…!" (Lévy, Pierre-Alain. "Eric Houdoyer un photographe de la rue qui traque l'imperceptible." WUKALI, 28, Aug. 2017. URL:

© Eric Houdoyer





Eric Houdoyer: instagram @erichoudoyer


4 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 75004 Paris





Dimitriadis, Steve: "How to shoot high contrast black and white Steet photography". ZONEFOCUS.NET, 15, May 2018. URL:

Edery, Gad: 'Eric Houdoyer", MAYONEZMAG,

Lévy, Pierre-Alain. "Eric Houdoyer un photographe de la rue qui traque l'imperceptible." WUKALI, 28,Aug. 2017. URL:





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Alain MARTIN alias Bobby M
a year ago

Merci Eric Houdoyer pour vos magnifiques photographies. Elles me font ressentir à la fois une présence et une absence du monde qui nous entoure.
Attiré par ce que vous avez décidé de nous montrer ou non, J'aime ce mystère, ou les choses sont à la fois présentes, plus là et moins là, un jeu de cache cache entre des personnages visibles ou invisibles, une manière de nous faire oublier nous-même pour en saisir la texture, les formes, la palette des couleurs, les symboles, et la lumière par le silence.

2 years ago

c est vraiment avec plaisir que je decouvre cette artiste Photographe qui laisseras dans le temps ses couleurs intemporels qui font notre vie de tout les jours concis de pressision parfaite

2 years ago

Ces photos sont saisissantes. Merci pour cet article !