More About Franc

How did I become a professional photographer,
32 years ago?

“Life is short, no time to waste”, this sentence had been like an obsession, since my adult life started, and it pushed me to move on, following my passions and accumulating exciting experiences all over the world from motorcycle racing to photography, journalism, film making and teaching. Lets start from the beginning.

By Franc Péret (photos by FP, Maindru, Prieur and friends)

As many teenagers of my generation, I was looking for independence, discovery, challenges and adrenaline.
At 16 years old, my first motorcycle brought me a hint of all of this, but after 2 years of practice on the road, I needed something more thrilling.

1983, 20 years old, I started racing as a “passenger” one of the toughest place on earth! Here on Side number 6. Getting out to keep the balance was one of my mission, a fierce one, when others were hitting my back with their front wheel or throwing stones with their rear wheel

From that moment, I will always have to find my way by myself as nobody among my friends and family members (except one Uncle who was passionate about Photography) was involved in racing or anything I will get into, later on: journalism, photography, life in Asia, film making and teaching.
Adult, I was on my own.

In tune with my pilot, I am sliding full gas in a long curve, an exciting way to start a life full of sparks.

Being a student, I was eager to get out of my intellectual routine, I was in need of physical engagement (I am speaking about sport here) but I couldn’t raise enough money during my free time to buy a bike and race on my own.
I had to find another way to fulfill my need of motorized action. A crazy way.

SIDE CAR CROSS, the broken bone factory

By luck, I discovered a very unusual type of competition called “Side Car Cross”, one of the most physically demanding sport on hearth, and a very risky one, but it was free of charge for the guy who dared to play the “monkey” on this striking up to 1000cm3 twin cylinders, 100 horse power, 200 Kg unbalanced off-road monster.

Start was both the most exciting and risky moment with 30 side-car packed together willing to reach the first corner in front of everyone else (I am racing here on number 6).
This was my fast way to enjoy visiting country side.

In the 80s, the start of a race sounded like a full squadron of B17 Bombers taking off.

I am trying to fly over the bumps, full throttle, pushed by a Norton 930cc
My second Season racing with a new pilot, new engine and a lefty side car from England

I did this type of international competition in Europe with great thrill for three seasons, but I had to stop due to too many crashes, traumas and broken bones: wrist, ribs, shoulder and back bone…

Exhaustion was common after each heat of 30 minutes with 3 heats per race. I was willing to get an intense physical life beside my studies and I got it!
Our usual price after the finish line: dust, sweat and pain mixing up, but it was nothing compare to the load of adrenaline.

I always felt that pains and wounds were the price to pay to reach such high and unique feelings (Don’t get me wrong, I am still speaking about action sports here…).
You should watch those videos to understand what I am meaning and to get an idea of the “on board” crazy and athletic feel, racing a Side Car Cross in the heart of a competition.

Several serious wounds forced me to give up on this exciting hobby, but I had to find something as exciting to replace it.

Video samples

I found those videos on Youtube and you need a VPN to play them from China.
If you don’t have a VPN and you are in China, just click on YOUKU VIDEO links.

Interesting things from start and a crash at 4mn50s:

Great starts and great actions allover the video:

Nice start and overtaking here:

Just a definition

Action, Passion and Adrenaline were my drugs and I never needed to try any other ones in my life.
I guess that junkies might be bored people at the first place…
At this early stage, I discovered that by going through exceptional moments, I was stretching my feel of time.
1 day of racing was more than a month of routine, in term of experiences, memories and sensations!
I was addicted to strong emotions and despite my physical damages and obvious limitations (bad luck had never been an acceptable excuse for me), I pursued new crazy goals, on a softer way (a bit softer)…

ATLAS RALLY, the start of a new career

My studies completed, I worked 8 months and spent all the money to participate to my first African Rally, the Atlas Rally in Morocco, a brand new challenge I approach as professionally as possible with 6 month of intense technical and physical preparation.

1986 Atlas Rally: With 500 kms average on tough rocky tracks everyday, racing full gas on the Beach was like been on a highway

This nine days international car and motorcycle race changed my life thanks to one of my sponsor who lend me a compact camera.

At age 23, I was the second youngest participant of this international car and motorcycle rally
Rocks, dust, palm trees, and magic names: Missour, Erfoud, Tagounit, Agadir…

Here are some of my recorded memories, racing the bike from early morning to night through dust and stones in an unknown country.

First race day in Morocco and late arrival to the final check point. It was a tough introduction, as I fall twice and got lost in total darkness for a while.
I spent 8 months salary to participate to this race in great condition. It allowed me to finish it at 59th position among 156 participant. Not bad for a rookie.

I wanted to thank my sponsors by having an article published in different newspapers and magazines.
To do so, I took bunch of pictures while racing.

My very first report as a journalist opens up a new career opportunity. Thanks to Yannick from Moto Magazine
End of the story in front of one of my main sponsor stores.

Later on, I succeed to sell my story to a motorcycle magazine (Moto Magazine), I approach before the race.

An unexpected OPPORTUNITY

Yannick, The chief editor liked it very much and he offered me the opportunity to become one of their freelance correspondent and I did so for 2 years as a hobby.
My expenses were paid, but most important, they lend me a camera, lenses and films for free. To improve my skills, they also invited me to join a journalism workshop which was a great experience.
This was the start of my photography career back to 1986…

Some of my press card
Some of my International race licence

I didn’t give up on racing as I needed to keep my physical condition, my riding skills and the adrenaline high to tell exciting stories to readers.

1987 I am Racing 24h of Bretagne, a unique off-road endurance race riding a 600cc Rotax. Despite the weight of this big format machine, jumping was part of the game day and night. Flying blindly in a complete darkness was such a magic feel.


For 2 years, I was in a transition position between my full time job as a technician for Airplane engine maker Snecma and my week-ends hobbies, split or mixed between motorcycle racing and photo journalism. For example, I participated twice to this amazing beach race you can discover in this promotional video. 1200 participants, 150 000 spectators and a great thrill for sharing:

My passion for discovery extended from racing track to photography and, soon, I invested more and more in camera and lenses than in chain and tires
In 1988 I decided to follow my growing passion for writing and photography by quitting my safe job to become a full time freelance journalist without being sure I will be able to make it.

My basic photography equipment back to 1988 in preparation of my first report in USA (Daytona Bike Week). Yes, I was living in a caravan like a Gipsy.

Call it destiny, during my first journalistic trip overseas (Daytona, USA), I met a chief editor who gave me lots of freelance jobs later on.

1987 Off-road test riding for Moto Magazine. I am riding the smoking blue bike, a BMW R80GS (800cc). Its hot air cooled engine is suddenly bathing in freezing water. My feet too…

My decision to quit my (soon to become) boring job was the right one.
Score: Passion 1 – Reason 0.

I also raced some years on a 2 wheels drive racing quad, one of the most exciting motorized engine I tried

Beside my growing journalistic career, I was still practicing off road races for fun and passion.

Being able to maintain my own machine helped me a lot for my following motorized trips all over the world
To share my own experience with readers, I owned a bike to race on Motocross tracks

During a press conference trip to Berlin, I met a French journalist who was quitting his position and he motivated me to take it. I did. This happened in November 1989, Berlin wall was falling down and a new life was paved for me, back to France.

PHOTOJOURNALISM, being on the move

From then, I truly became a professional photographer and journalist as 100 % of my income were from selling stories and pictures to magazine.
This was just the start of a long career with bunch of exciting experiences, amazing discoveries and tough challenges.

I got hired by different magazines and worked full time for 2 years for the weekly magazine Moto Journal, the European leader in that field.

Sometime, my job was to cross a river riding a motorcycle (Australian Safary 1992). My motivation was to get as close as possible to the race while preserving my camera

Both competitor and photojournalist, I got the opportunity to participate to many different races allover the world such as in Australia and North Africa.

Sometime, my rented basic motorcycle was not good enough to face some difficulties, or may be it’s me who got tired of 12 hours ride everyday?
1992 Australian Safari, I am following the 10 days race from Sydney to Darwin, riding a rented motorcycle for Moto Journal

There, I had a chance to work on a location scooting ride in preparation of Tunisia Rally.

Sometime, my job was to drift in the Tunisian Desert (1990) riding a racing bike, one of my best riding memory, a unique moment.
Discovering Tunisia as a journalist for a report on a Rally preparation riding on a powerful racing bike: Husqvarna 360cc 2 stroke.

I was both a reporter and a test rider, both an editor and a photographer with a great variety of topics to cover.

1998 Yamaha TW200 test riding in Japan.
1990 Pirelli Tires test riding on Pirelli race track in Bari (Italy) for Moto Journal

As a journalist, I had the chance to travel a lot for my work, with more than 20 countries visited in total, mostly riding motorcycle on my own for 3 years.

A need for change

After a while, despite the great excitement to work in a field I loved so much, I was feeling that working for motorcycle magazine was too limited and I wanted to widen up my field of interest to get more diverse experiences.

In 1997, I am participating to a 24 hours endurance test riding on track for Moto Journal. Aprilia RSV 1000 (photo: M. Lacombe).

Now, looking back to this period, I understand that I was already producing lots of different type of photography: sports, portrait, landscape, studio, flash, products shots…

Harley Night Train (detail)
Gran’ma is passing by

My motivation to give my life another direction was driven by my hunger of discovery.

RECORDING a great range of emotions

24h Le Mans, one of the most popular motor sport event on earth with 100 000 spectators
24h Race Le Mans: “Follow me!”

Motorsport magazine were a perfect basis to start with as most of people are struggling with things in action and this was my major since my very first professional shot.

A rising Trial rider
90’s Speedway race in Paris

Everything else was much easier to learn, but I still had to learn and improve a lot. Here are some sample of my work at that time. You can discover much more in my Photography Portfolio

Finally, in 1993, I quit my job and France to become a documentary journalist, finding interesting stories and taking both notes and picture about it to be able to sell my photo reports to magazines or to present them to news agencies such as Gamma, Arenok and Sygma (which became Sygma-Corbis later on).


Visiting a girl-friend there, I started by a 2 months trip in Taiwan where I finally got the opportunity in 1994 to be hired by a film company to work as a still photographer for movies.

Red Kaki (1994): Local Taiwan schoolboy not wiling to cooperate with a kid who just arrived from Mainland China.
Red Kaki (1994): Scene of Kids making a living by selling ice cream in early 50’s
One of my first shot working on an historical film in Taiwan (scan of a paper picture)

Here is a gallery showing some of my own picture and my work during the shooting of Hong Shi Zi (Red Kaki or Red Persimmon) in 1994, by famous Director Wang Tong:

Myself, hired as a photographer and the kids who played in the movie “Hong Shi Zi” (Red persimmon) in 1994
Soon to be famous actress Liu Ruo Ying first appearance in a movie.(Picture Franc Péret)

The shooting lasted 4 months in many different areas in Taiwan. I learned a lot from this exotic experience, as I was the unique foreigner in the team and in most of the place where we stayed for shooting.

One of my picture which serve to promote the movie “Red Kaki” released in 1996.
“Red Kaki”, shot in 1994, gave me opportunities to totally change my photography subject and interest, from high speed to contemplative mood.

There, I discovered a totally new way of working with a camera, being very patient, tuning up my composition to describe different moods, and struggling with low lighting condition while learning all the steps for making a movies.

1995: I am sitting between Dai Li Ren and Kevin Lin who just played the role of Qong Li cousin in Temptress Moon. He join us and Dai Li Ren on the shoot of a short film.
Self portrait with Kevin Lin dressed as a woman for Qu You Ning movie (Superman get a mask) in 1995.

One of Wang Tong’s assistant director (Qu You Ning) liked my work and hired me to shoot the pictures of his first personal project. A short film called “Superman gets a mask” .

On his following project, I was working as an assistant director and I had the chance to meet an actor who is also a director: Dai Li Ren.
We became friends and once Leon Dai got the needed budget to shoot his first feature film, he hired me as his main cameraman.

Starting position of the “Matrix” effect.
Turning hand held around the actress let us achieve a “cheap” Matrix effect with only one camera.

Thus, “Summers” was also my first movie, as the main cinematographer I had to learn a lot on the field and I loved the challenge.

Due to low budget for shooting the film Summers, I used lots of tricks to get interesting point of view, such as shooting the reflection of the subject in a mirror.
Taipei 2000: Shooting my first film as cameraman and Director of Photography for Dai Li Ren (Leon Dai) in 2000.

My passion for movie was already there as a spectator, but shooting a complete project is nothing comparable in term of enjoyment, emotion, difficulties and challenge… Getting quick and approved ideas, solving problem and respecting the schedule became a second nature to me.

One of the most interesting scene from the film Summers which allowed me to get some interesting view to emphasize the action and the cartoonish character of the film
Due to limited budget and brand new digital editing line capabilities, we shot the film on Sony Digi Beta, Dai Li Ren edit on Avid and the final result got transferred on 35mm film.

Year 2000 was a big turn in my life and I felt that my destiny was linked to film making and Taiwan.
Summers got a great success, the story was appealing and my visual decision and shot images totally matched it.

Thanks to our good combination, Me for the images and Leon Dai for script/direction and editing, Summers won the best price for a first film in many film festival in Taiwan, Korea and Japan international film festival.
Due to language limitation at that time, with a script written in Chinese, we rehearsed all the scene before I decide the camera placement. (Summers, 2000)

You can see the result in my film making portfolio
After the premiere, many other local directors were interested in a collaboration with me as I was full of ideas and passion.

An unexpected end to my dream life

Overall, I stayed about 2 and half year in Taiwan working in film making field moving up, from photographer to assistant director and finally cameraman (Director of Photography).
Unfortunately, despite all my effort, I was unable to renew my visa and I had to leave Taiwan, losing a great opportunity to pursue a career in Film making there, as a cinematographer and director.

The personal car of the Director was used a the dolly to track some running shots in the street of Taipei.
Another interesting set up in the street of Taipei for an action scene on the shooting of Summers.

After so much effort, risks and sacrifices I had done to find what I really wanted to, I had to give it up suddenly.
This event was one of my worst experience in life, forced to leave a country, a job and people loved so much…

To be continued