Ben Heine interviewed
by Simon Crisp (*)

How did you come up with the idea for Pencil Vs Camera?

I’ve been taking photos and drawing since almost 10 years. This « Pencil Vs Camera » series is nothing but the result of several years of graphic exploration and a logic consequence of my artistic evolution. But the real idea came by coincidence while I was watching television and writing a letter at the same time a few weeks ago. Reading my letter before putting it in the envelope, I saw in transparency the television behind the paper. I then realize it would be great to make something similar in a single image showing 2 different actions.

I went outside and Drew « Pencil Vs Camera 1 » which is very simple and shows 2 chairs with a small table. About ¼ of the scene is represented on the paper, the other ¾ happens on the photo. So this is roughly how the project started. In my other « Pencil Vs Camera » images, I tried to introduce weird elements on the paper (such as dinosaurs, ufo’s, double pair of eyes…) to contrast with the realism of the photo.

How do you pick the photos you use?

The photos and drawings always come from my own stock/production. I somehow consider the surface of the image as a battle between drawing and photography and the tools of this fight are my « pencil » and my « camera ». So I usually choose photos with a striking subject and a specific action. It can also be nice to use a background scenery with a very simple or low semantic effect and make everything happen inside the small piece of paper.

The great thing is that photo and drawing are 2 different ways of expression but they go well together and they definitely have the same purpose: share an idea, an emotion, a concept or a message.

How do you pick what to add?

There are no rules. There mustn’t be. Imagination and creativity are the leitmotif. This is why this series is so amusing to do for me. You can choose to draw something in a realistic way or to rather go crazy. I personally prefer to show unreal things on the paper because the photo is a mere reflection of the world we live in.

I noticed that representing a strong perspective on the paper (for instance in Pencil Vs Camera 4 or 8) gives a good illusion and generates a nice visual impact when it matches the main lines of the background scenery. It is very exciting for the viewer to ignore what’s really behind the paper. It is clear for me that it really is the battle between drawing and photography that is the whole message and purpose of the series.

What are your favourites so far?

I don’t really have favourites. I let the viewer decide what he prefers and I’m only thinking about my next projects.

What reaction have you had to them?

This series has had a very positive outcome. I really didn’t expect that. I’m very happy of the good feedbacks I’ve received from all over the world. I think and I hope this technique will become a new form of expression for everybody because there is so much to express with this kind of visual work. So good luck!


(*) Simon Crisp is a journalist and editor whose work regularly appears in national UK newspapers including The Times, The Daily Mail, The Sun and the Daily Star. He also also founded NewsLite