The Independent Photographer

“I shoot mainly on instinct, I’m always alert. The miracle is to be there at the right time and see what others do not see!” – Xavier Roy

One of the most gifted photographers of our day, Xavier Roy captures deeply moving monochrome images that disclose the delicate beauty of humanity.

Born in Bize, a small town in southwestern France, to an artist mother and a father who worked in advertising, Roy harbored an interest in art from an early age, though recognizing that he had no gift for painting, drawing, or music, he initially eschewed the creative practices.

That was until he visited a retrospective of the eminent Hungarian photographer, André Kertész, at Paris’ Jeu de Paume gallery some years later, when suddenly and epiphanically he realized that photography would be his means of expression henceforth.

“Kertész once said: “My English is bad. My French is bad. Photography is my only language”. It was his sensitivity, his sense of composition, of innovation that immediately appealed to me.”

It was this cognizance, combined with his love of travel, that galvanized his practice. He purchased his first camera, (a Nikkormat) in Singapore in 1977, and during the preceding years, used it to document his experiences as he traveled extensively across the globe.

“I went 9 times to Cuba, 8 times to Brazil, 13 times to Egypt, 6 times to India, etc. To travel is about differences, a change of scenery: new smells, going far, far from your habits, to discover everything: others, other cultures, other lights, parts of dreams. … I like to share, exchange, I simply like people and I hope that it is felt in my images.”

He works intuitively, ‘receiving’ rather than searching for images, much like his role model Kertész, along with other masters such as, Robert Frank and Henri Cartier Bresson, whom he also cites as influences; the latter’s elusive theory of perception, ‘The Decisive Moment’ is embodied beautifully in many of Roy’s works.

“My photographic approach is identical to the one I had when I started; I shoot mainly on instinct, I’m always alert. The miracle is to be there at the right time and see what others do not see!”

He possesses the rare ability to discern beauty within the seemingly inconspicuous, both in quotidian environments and locations of great renown.

A deep affection for his subjects invariably shines through; a powerful humanism, and a deep passion and appreciation for the medium and the diverse destinations that he has had the privilege of knowing. He charts subtle moments of joy, love and benevolence, with profound grace and perceptivity, and, like his heroes, exclusively in black and white, the monochromatic tones providing the perfect swatch for his uniquely poetic vision.

“Photographing in black and white is my language, it is timeless. To photograph in black and white is to have a ‘refined/distilled’ vision that leads to the essential; Lines and shapes – “To photograph in black and white is to deconstruct postcards” as my friend Bernard Plossu would say.”

Despite his artistry, and considerable prolificacy, and notwithstanding a fairly significant number of exhibitions both in his homeland and further afield, Roy remains largely unknown outside of the most discerning of photographic circles. He only turned to photography full time in 2003, having spent much of his working life in other sectors: forging a successful career that has afforded him the rare freedom to concentrate on his art without the financial pressure that afflicts so many others (and thus dilutes their output).

“I was able, with devouring passion, to devote myself definitively to photography. I am very fortunate not to have to make a living from it, only to enjoy it freely.”

In this regard, he represents something of an enigma in our ultra-connected and information-rich age, the antithesis of the modern-day practitioner for whom incessant self-promotion is inexorable. He instead has remained dedicated solely to the ‘essential’, traveling, shooting, editing, an approach that has, thankfully for those of us lucky enough to encounter his work, engendered truly remarkable results.

“Who knows, one day maybe, much later, perhaps this famous photographic notoriety will come. The photographer Sergio Larrain whose work I greatly admire, never sought fame. However, his work gave it to him, and at the age of 40 he decided to escape, and he finished his life in Chile in meditation, as a hermit.”

The Independent Photographer Read More »


Selected by the “2nd Festival Photo in Saint Germain des Près”

Gallery 54, Paris

from the 5th of november to the 8th of december 2012

44 photos exhibited

“Brazil” Read More »



Gallery “de l’Europe”, 55 rue de Seine 75006 Paris

from 6th décember to 3rd January 2011

with sculptor Marie Virginie Dru


Re:viewing Egypt


150 pages 130 photographs.

Published in USA,UK,Égypt. (2010)

Forwords:   Gamal Ghitani

It is this hidden relationship that Xavier Roy has observed with his piercing eye, a relationship that is so hard to observe other than through the agency of those endowed with special insight, of whom, there can be no doubt, he is one.”

Gamal Ghitani

Re:viewing Egypt Read More »


Saint Tropez is one of those villages that appears to vanish under the intense glitter of summer, but which instantly comes alive again at the end of the season when nature and the steady pace of daily life reassert themselves.

“Far from the madness of its frantic « celebrity » summers invaded with hoards of tourist, star-studded parties and billionaires’ yachts, there exists another Saint Tropez, a less well-known Saint Tropez that is instantly recognizable to those who have the good fortune to live there.

Because, make no mistake, Saint Tropez is truly a village, with its bell tower softly chiming the hours, its old people warming themselves in the sun on the ” Liars Bench ” and children playing noisily in the school yard, not to mention the colourful market that literally overflows with flowers and vegetables, where the famous village peacocks can be seen roaming freely in all their glory!

It is a marvelous place, where each bend in the road reserves a pleasant surprise, where the pretty, brightly-painted houses around the port are at last visible again after the summer visitors have departed and the beaches revert to their wild state and are once more populated by seaweed and drift-wood.

It is a village where the inhabitants have remained genuine and maintain a deep respect for their roots and traditions, and where kindness and a smile are the general rule. Indeed, it is thanks to its inhabitants that the village of Saint Tropez has managed to preserve its irresistible charm and enduring mystery.

This is the Saint Tropez that I have had the good fortune to get to know and have come to love and that I would like to share with you now”

Xavier Roy

Publisher: Images en Manoeuvres. (May2009)

Forwords: Dany Lartigue



“The tenderness of a traveler”

“In this various and paradoxical country, how many Brazils do you need to make one Brazil?” asks the famous brazilian singer Lenine; Country at the same time extremely violent and full of gentleness, Xavier Roy has chosen his own Brasil. It is not the one of crime, injustice and misery. It may be sometimes needy or even barren, but it is never a desperate Brazil! Under the gaze of the photographer appears a Brazil of infinite tenderness, and this tenderness you may read on the faces you see, is primarily the eye of Xavier Roy. He loves the ones he sees and in return they give him the best of themselves. Looking through “Viva o’ Brazil” we know from which family belongs Xavier Roy: Cartier Bresson, Boubat, Plossu… “the street photographers”, the ones who go walking through all the cities of the world so that they can meet people… Like Cartier Bresson, Xavier Roy is careful with the setting and he captures the decisive moment; They divide the image as the panels of an altar piece or the rungs of a ladder, the lines organize the composition, they order the chaos. As the space is  cut up this way, everything seems in place.
In Brazil, however, the lines look softer: they are curved, they undulate; They are the lines of the sidewalk of Rio de Janeiro, the ones that trace the meander of a river, the contour of an avenue or the crest of a dune. They are the round back of the sugar loaf, that a fisherman reproduces just as he throws his net. But to capture the decisive moment, in Brazil, it is not to set the evanescence of a gesture or the fleetingness of a reflection; it is not only capturing funny or unusual moments, which for instance show two cyclists ready to fly with their swarm of balloons, or this other character that scares a flock of birds on the wall. In Brazil, capturing the moment is seizing the religious intrusion in everyday life: an angel with black curls in the street, a young mother who turns her baby in her arms and gives the photographer the peaceful and enlightened face of a Madonna. Here Christ is everywhere: though he is absent of the cross under which a boy makes a somersault, he comes back in the mist- the image that gives the Redeemeer, photographed a thousand times, all the beauty and strangeness of an appearance- or, in the shadow of a church, behind a glass booth, fragile presence who watches quietly the street you can see through the open door.
It is also the “saudade” that you can see in the eye of Xavier Roy, this peculiar Brazilian feeling. You can read it on the dreaming faces leaning on their arm, but it is mostly in the style of the photographer, who sees Brazil – and shows it – as we did not see it anymore. In the midst of brutal images that the media swamps us with, Xavier Roy talks about a country almost forgotten full of humanity and gentleness. We hope that he will go on a long time, watching these men and women with the tenderness of the traveler.

Sébastien Roy

Publisher : “Impressa Oficial do Estado de Sao Paulo/Instituto Totem Cultural) 2009

86 black and white photographs

VIVA O’BRASIL! Read More »

Terre D’Egypt


French Publisher : Nouvel Angle (2010)

150 pages 130 photographs.

Published in France.

Forwords:   Gamal Ghitani

It is this hidden relationship that Xavier Roy has observed with his piercing eye, a relationship that is so hard to observe other than through the agency of those endowed with special insight, of whom, there can be no doubt, he is one.”

Gamal Ghitani

Terre D’Egypt Read More »

Viva o’Brasil

30 photographs  Xavier Roy shot during his stays in Brazil.

Exhibited from september 2008 to June 2009 in FNAC Galleries all over the brazien country within the “Year of France in Brazil”.

02/09/2008 – 29/09/2008 São Paulo – Morumbi
06/10/2008 – 03/11/2008 Curitiba
10/11/2008 – 08/12/2008 Brasilia
15/12/2008 – 12/01/2009 Campinas
19/01/2009 – 19/02/2009 São Paulo – Paulista (Opening the 29th of january in présence of the artiste)
16/02/2009 – 23/04/2009 Porto Alegre
30/03/2009 – 27/04/2009 São Paulo – Pinheiros
04/05/2009 – 08/06/2009 Rio de Janeiro

Viva o’Brasil Read More »


From Brazil to Madagascar, Xavier Roy has captured precious moments of life. Through the eyes and attitudes of the people he photographed, we can appreciate his feeling for those who cross his path.

« Xavier Roy loves people, talks to them, meets them, smiles to them and then eventually takes their portraits… » said about him  the photographer Bernard Plossu.

When he met Marie Virginie Dru, who sculpts women and children from Africa and elsewhere, the desire to pool their talent  was obvious. Marie Virginie, once herself a photographer before discovering sculpture, was seduced by Xaviers’s photos with the strong impression of having already met some of his subjects and recognize them….

When Xavier asks her to give a third dimension of his photos the substitution begins…

This exhibition is like a diversion, a link between their two eyes that focus on faces and silhouettes. A common desire to show the people represented on the photos and the sculptures are being presented simultaneously.

Photographs Xavier Roy
Sculptures Marie-Virginie Dru

16 to 29th of july 2008
Ambassade du Tourisme
Place de la Garonne
Saint Tropez


All our children

I did not photograph children by choice. They caught the attention of my camera themselves….

Invariably through my travels, my lens focuses on children; serious or smiling they are always spontaneous unpredictable, moving.

And that is what  always touches and surprises me about all the children from around the globe is the incredible ease they have to laugh and amuse themselves. They enjoy every action and moment to its fullest… a notion that only their natural lack of concern can bring

Xavier Roy

Publisher : earBooks / edel Classic
Publication : 2006

All our children Read More »

« Cuban Soul »

Cuba is a country rich in culture and beauty that often caught the eye of the photographers and the attention of the camera lens.

A very well photographed country, the beauty and mystery of Cuba can be seen in many fantastic images. Although these images all encompass the same vast country,  they are very diverse:  some are “clichés” meanwhile others like those of Walker Evans and his time are real masterpieces that remain totally faithful to Cuba !

When a photographer feels that he ” should return somewhere”, it means that he knows that in order to truly capture the image he must fully immerse himself in the soul of the country over and over again, as if drawn by magic. It is a need stronger than the photographer himself, and that is why Xavier Roy returned to Cuba more than a dozen times !

And finally the pictures appear on the contact sheets, many faces, as Xavier loves people. He enjoys smiling and talking to them… and eventually he takes their portrait. And so he did for this old man with his mustache and sweet smile or this grandfather and his child, bare-chested under his straw hat….The Cuban sun is so strong ! Not to forget this man behind his window in company of his dog, snout through the bars, and this young woman with curlers and a conniving smile. And many more !

In fact all this portraits takes us deep into the real Cuba : we can feel the climate, see the architecture, the time passing by and a lot more. When we travel, we not only cross borders and change country, but the tastes, the smells and all the rest changes as well …

Bernard Plossu

Publisher : Flammarion
Publication : 2/11/2004

« Cuban Soul » Read More »

Elsewhere / Instants d’ailleurs

« For many years now, Xavier Roy has been taking pictures in a far from amateur way. He loves traveling and staying for long periods in distant countries, and not just for the sand and sea. You are far more likely to meet him at day break in the swarming streets of downtown Havana, Delhi, Cairo or Rio, with a camera on his shoulder and a watchful eye open for those unique freeze-frames of life. An antidote perhaps to the ever accelerating media of his daily responsibilities.

Everyone who has had the privilege of seeing his photographs has been looking forward to his collected works. Exclusively taken in black and white, they have now been brought together as a book and exhibited at the Musée de la Castre in Cannes »

Catherine Tasca
French Minister for Culture and Communication

January 2002

Publisher : Musée de la Castre

Elsewhere / Instants d’ailleurs Read More »