Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk

A stylised portrait of a woman in a red tunic holding a fishing rod, framed by trees, both real and fake, and with a robot in the foreground. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS by Canon Ambassador Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk.

"I love juxtaposing real and fake," says portrait photographer Sébastien Salamand, known as 'Le Turk'. "For this shoot, I brought nature inside the studio and placed it amongst my artificial set." Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 35mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 200. © Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk

If you're unfamiliar with the work of Sébastien Salamand, or 'Le Turk' as he is more commonly known, it's unlikely that you've seen anything quite like it before. His playful compositions are filled with both joy and despair, combining the risqué decadence of the Parisian cabaret scene with a darkly comic commentary on society.

Le Turk insists that his work "doesn't carry any hidden messages", rather it's simply "a chronicle of the strange world we live in". Any commentary that can be deduced from analysing his photographs and films is entirely up to his audience's interpretation. "I draw as much inspiration from artists such as Eugène Delacroix as I do from the silly films and mad pop culture of the 1980s," he says.

Le Turk began taking photographs while working at an artistic centre in Paris in 2010. He was an aspiring artist, and when the centre had to close for six months due to funding issues, his employer offered him the opportunity to keep his job. There was just one condition – he had to help shoot a series of photographs that would eventually appear in the centre's gallery.

"I had no experience at all," he says. "I spent my childhood making music, short movies and drawing, but had never tried photography." After the stint in the gallery, however, he found that he was able to channel all his passion, desire and creativity into photography.

A portrait of Canon Ambassador Sébastien Salamand, known as 'Le Turk', holding a Canon camera.
Location: Paris, France

Specialist areas: Portraiture, film directing, set design

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R5 C
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM
A portrait of a shaven-headed model resting their cheek on a blue wood-effect surface, with a light blue tear running down the side of their face. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS by Canon Ambassador Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk.

"I shot this picture of Hugo in my studio. It's my favourite image from two full days of shooting," says Le Turk. In addition to creating work for clients, Le Turk also shoots limited edition photographs to sell. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 44mm, 1/50 sec, f/4 and ISO 640. © Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk

A portrait of a heavily made-up model, with purple hair and devil's horns, holding an ice cream cup. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS by Canon Ambassador Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk.

"I call this piece 'Devil Boy'," says Le Turk. "I made it for Canon as part of its Live Stories event in 2021." Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 44mm, 1/100 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 400. © Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk

Today, Le Turk combines his skills as an artist, set designer, photographer and film director to create immersive representations of the world as he sees it. It's an approach that has earned him long-standing relationships with international clients, and tens of thousands of followers on social media.

"To be honest, it's cinema," says Le Turk, when asked which creative outlet is his favourite. "It's harder, more expensive and takes much longer – but it's also more fun. Photography is much easier to control – it can just be me and a model – but I enjoy allowing the process to find its own course in filmmaking. There's rhythm to cinema – the frame moves, there are words and sounds, and many narrative tools to produce a more complete work. It's hard to be precise because you meet problems along the way and plans change. Cinema also involves working with more people, each with their own ideas that become part of the final project, and I really enjoy the process."

A heavily made-up model wearing a striped top and a green bowler hat poses in front of a red, cave-like backdrop. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS by Canon Ambassador Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk.

"This shot shows actor Alexandre Wetter, a good friend of mine and perhaps my favourite model," says Le Turk. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 50mm, 1/60 sec, f/4.5 and ISO 400. © Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk

A stylised portrait of a figure with a robotic arm holding a white flower, against a backdrop of painted trees. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS by Canon Ambassador Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk.

"The model here is professional dancer Tom Migné," recalls Le Turk. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 41mm, 1/50 sec, f/4.5 and ISO 200. © Sébastien Salamand dit Le Turk

Always seeking to improve, Le Turk says the work he is most proud of is always his most recent. "The last piece of work I completed was a music video for a track called Les Charognards, or The Scavengers in English," he says. "It features vultures and a plane wreck, and it was so much fun to shoot. Every shoot is an adventure. Lots of things don't work out how they were supposed to, but I learn along the way – and I'm always happy with the result in the end."

How did you get your first client?

"My first clients as a photographer were French fashion brand Lilith Paris and UK-based lingerie brand, Playful Promises. My first video client was a French musician, and I've devoted a lot of time to creating music videos over the past few years. There's no difference between what I create for myself and what I make for clients, and the best thing about that is it means clients find me and not the other way around. Clients need to have an open mind, but they come to me because they want the kind of work I produce."

What work goes into the planning of a shoot?

"The amount of work that goes into each shoot depends on the budget, but I might spend two to three weeks on drawing and research, another two to three weeks on set building, then two to three days on set. I work with my wife on the concept, then alongside a chief set builder to bring our vision to life. When we get on set, I spend a lot of time on lighting and styling, directing even the smallest of details to ensure everything looks how I envisaged it. I shoot and direct all of my projects myself, and now use the Canon EOS R5 C for everything. Being able to switch modes but use the same camera is so convenient."

Do you do a lot of retouching?

"I always say that if I have to spend more than 20 minutes retouching a photograph, it was a bad shoot. Video is different, though. I shoot everything in Canon's Cinema RAW Light, and work with a colourist to achieve a very specific look. I'm slowly learning how to colour, transferring my knowledge from photography to video, and working closely with my colourist so I can absorb some of his knowledge."

One thing I know

Sébastien Salamand

"I always say, 'Make first and think after'. Throwing yourself into situations that need solutions is the only way to learn. You'll find your answers by starting to create, rather than sitting and thinking for too long."

Facebook: Le Turk Photographies

Instagram: @leturkphotographies


Sébastien Salamands's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs and videos


Canon EOS R5 C

The smallest Cinema EOS camera in Canon's range allows you to switch between shooting 8K video and 45MP stills with the flick of a button. "Having one camera that I can trust to meet my expectations in both videography and photography, and that's easy to carry around all day, is incredible," says Le Turk.


Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Give your full-frame mirrorless photography the professional edge with a 24-70mm zoom, boasting a fast aperture and 5-stops of image stabilisation. "For small projects, I only use this lens. I can make complete works with it – it's perfect," says Le Turk.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

A short telephoto lens that's perfect for flattering portraits, producing razor-sharp images in all light conditions. "If I'm only shooting portraits, this is my go-to lens because I like to work with a big aperture," says Le Turk.

Related articles

Canon Ambassador Jaime de Diego

Canon Europe Ambassador Programme

Find out how the ambassador programme works, and meet the phenomenal photographers chosen to represent Canon.

Canon Professional Services

Members get access to CPS Priority Support, both locally and at major events; a priority Fast Track repair service; and — depending on your level of membership — free back-up equipment loans plus return shipping and discounts on maintenance. They can also enjoy exclusive members’ offers.