The Interviews

Sebastian Erras


Fascination with Floors

Interview by Leif Steiner & Emily Potts
July 11, 2016

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Photographer Sebastian Erras has traveled extensively, capturing beautiful images in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cuba, Rome among other places. His street scenes in these busy cities can be colorful or very sterile depending on the perspective and his choice of color or black-and-white as his palette.

Since May 2015, he’s been capturing the attention of viewers everywhere—over 87,000!– through his photographic exploration of mosaic floor tiles in Paris through his @Parisianfloors Instagram feed. Here, we talked to him about this obsessive habit and why it’s become so popular.

How did this fascination with photographing floors start? Have you always loved ornate patterns/designs?

The idea of photographing the floors came after a trip to Marrakech, where I visited the Bahia Palace. There I found some beautiful mosaic floors and while walking through the monument I started taking some pictures of these mosaic floors and included my feet as a reference that it is actually a floor. When I came back to Paris, I started noticing all these different colorful tiles and mosaic floors in hallways, restaurants, galleries and cafes. So I started to do the same there and that’s when the idea of the whole Instagram project started.

What is it about these photos that resonates with people?

I think there a couple of reasons: First, it’s very colorful and has a very graphic approach. Second, it’s based in Paris which has a special draw in itself. Most people don’t know there’s such a rich variety of floors, so it’s kind of a surprise for them. Then when I post floors at famous locations, like Opera Garner, Petit Palais, Cafe de Flores, Les 2 Moulins, people have either heard of it or have been there so they associate good memories with the image. A lot of them tag their friends in the pictures to remind them of the good times they had there.

Another important aspect is the simplicity and continuity of the project. When people see my account and images, they know what to expect when they follow me.

Do you ever have to wash the floor before you photograph it? They always appear so clean ….

Luckily not yet, but I’ve had a few occasions where I decided not to shoot the floor, as it was too dirty. I would just go back another day.

Do you ever get weird looks/reactions from people when you are photographing your feet?

All the time. It’s always funny to see the people’s faces when I go in to a cafe or shop and ask the staff if I can take a picture of the floor. It’s probably the weirdest question they have ever been asked. Sometimes now, when I enter a shop, the owner will recognize me from my shoes—that, and I’m holding a camera. It’s pretty funny.

Do you always have your camera with you to capture images?

Most of the time I have my DSLR with me as I work nearly every day

Do people tip you off as to where to go?

Yes, some of my followers send me messages with floors they found in their neighborhood, or people tag me in their floor pictures on Instagram.

Do you have a favorite floor pattern?

I love the beautiful and colorful mosaic at the Café Benjamin in Paris. Definitely a very unique mosaic floor. I am a big fan as well of the new modern tile design.

Ruede Rivoli, Cafe Benjamin

Cafe Benjamin

Do you purposely travel places far and wide now, looking for unique floors?

I have been working with an Italian company (PixartPrinting) on a series about floors in different cities. So far we have covered floors in Venice, Barcelona, London, and Antwerp.

Do you bring multiple pairs of shoes with you to match the floors?

I try to bring at least one extra pair with me when I stroll through Paris now. Sometimes when I a find a good floor, but I have the wrong pair of shoes, I just note the location and come back another day with the right pair of shoes.

Did you have to buy more shoes for this project?

Luckily, I have some great sponsors now that support me and give me shoes for this project.

Has anyone ever asked you to leave?

Once, I was refused to shoot a floor in an old bakery. For some reason, the owners didn’t want any pictures to be taken inside.

There are some images with two pairs of feet … is there a story behind that?

Sometimes I go out with my girlfriend to look for floors and we shoot them floors together. She’s a fashion blogger, so whenever we have cool matching shoes we try to take a pic together.

Any thoughts of ever going bare foot?

Ha, not really. I am not sure if people would find that attractive.

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