For this special updating on Photography and Expatriation we have contacted Maylis and asked whether anything has changed since the time we made this interview. Maylis recently went back to Texas after having spent 14 months in Scotland. She tells us that it has been difficult to keep on with photography in Scotland, since the opportunities to exhibit her work were very scarce. Not knowing anyone in the field, it has been extremely difficult to make contacts, contrary to what happened in the United States, where she had managed to make twelve exhibitions in three years. She had the impression that there is less enthusiasm in Scotland, and fewer opportunities for young artists. Nonetheless she managed to sell postcards and small pictures, and to make an exhibition, and some portraits. Good luck in Texas, Maylis!
Maylis (May on our forum) presently lives in Houston, Texas, where she divides herself between her baby and her double profession of expatriate photographer and real estate agent. We interviewed her to find out how an expatriate woman organizes herself in a free-lance profession. Thanks Maylis!
You left France when you were very young, so we can say that your professional training happened mostly outside of France. Has this somehow influenced your career?
Yes, certainly. I was lucky to make my university in Great Britain, where the system is much more open and flexible than in France. After a diploma in languages, I managed to get a place to make a specialization in History of Art at a Scottish university (even if I had just followed very few courses on this topic while I was preparing my paper). Had I remained in France, I would have never had this chance. Thanks to this specialization, I obtained a place in a museum in England (yes, contrary to what happens in France, there are no public selections to access this kind of jobs).
It is already rather difficult to develop a career as photographer in general; has changing country in a more or less regular way made this even more complex?
The future will tell, because until now I have seriously tried a career as a photographer in Texas only… I have had the chance to meet the right people at the right moment, and to take advantage of the international atmosphere of Houston, a city definitely very open to art and artists. I managed to exhibit several times in different galleries, and I started to do some portraits. I think it would have been far more difficult in Europe, where I believe it is necessary to have some recommendations…
How do you do to make yourself known when you arrive in a new country?
I have built a beautiful website to show my work, I go around with cards and distribute them, and once we’ll have left Houston, I hope to be able to explore the art galleries when I get to the new country, so as to find a place where to exhibit and make myself known. It will obviously take time, but being able to exhibit is a beautiful reward.
Do you think your career would have been different, had you remained in France?
Certainly! I had made a master in English in France, which does not offer many possibilities apart teaching… In this moment I would probably be a stressed and hysterical high school teacher. While here in Texas I have a triple life, I am a mother, a photographer and a part-time real estate agent.
How is the work market in Houston? Is it possible to work as free-lance, or do you need a special permit?
It is very easy to work as free-lance in Houston; this is what I do with my two jobs of real estate agent and photographer. Thanks to a baby-sitter that I employ a couple of hours per week, and to a husband that only wants to take care of the baby during the week-end, I manage to work part-time, and besides in two fields I am really interested in. In order to work in the United States you need a work permit – the entry visas in the country do not necessarily allow you to have one.
Interview by Claudiaexpat