Sunday, 26 January 2014

Études

ÉTUDES


It has been quite a while since I have been thinking about doing a very personal project. Two years ago, I started a project called “The Streets” in which I intended to portray people and a moment in their lives while walking on the streets. It was a very great experience for me because not only do you witness the little details about a person, but you also learn to see different emotions and attitudes. I have never hid my love for people – in fact, the more I photograph, the more I am comforted in this idea that I care only about photography for the sake of people and myself. Photography does not involve just a subject and some photographer taking pictures just like that. Like any other art, a picture has a signature and that signature is the photographer’s. Photography is about introspection in my opinion, because even if you keep looking in fashion, in society for inspiration, ultimately what you look for is for something you like, something that stimulate the artist you are deep within. So it comes as no surprise that a picture depicts somehow your feelings, your mental state and your interest.


It is the same as a painting; the best example I can use to illustrate my point is that of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night over the Rhône”. Being one of my favourite paintings, I had at the first thought of it as a beautiful peaceful sight only to learn over time, that what Van Gogh’s style tells us here is that he was on the precipice of a depression. So much blue and those brush strokes... It all showed Vincent Van Gogh’s ability to project his turbulent emotional experience on canvas. I realised how personal a painting can get for a painter when he takes up his brush to paint something he wants. Now, don’t you dare think I am comparing my work to Van Gogh’s! What I want you to understand is how an artist pours a lot of his own self into the creation of a painting, a picture, a sculpture, a writing. 


As a portrait photographer, I have to love people to be able to portray them accurately or find the one special thing about that person that is interesting and worth exploring. I am thankful for the trust my models and my clients put in me when they agree to let me take their picture. As I said in my previous post, there is a degree of intimacy like no other that goes on during a portrait session between the subject and the photographer. If you want great pictures, you have to give something, you have to let go of something. Creation comes from a place of emotion; which is why art is art – it makes you feel, it makes others feel, and it may also invite thinking. 



The first time I took my camera to the streets to start “The Streets”, the first person I encountered and who captivated me was a man named Jacob, I learned later. I fell in love instantly. I sometimes find myself ridiculous thinking about it, but then, there is no way of translating the emotion I felt at that instant to any other thing than love and happiness. See the picture of Jacob above; he was in the streets near ‘La Gare du Nord” looking at handcrafted necklaces. I saw him and ‘boom’. Slowly, I motioned to the man with my camera to ask him if I could take a picture of him. And see how when you ask nicely with a big smile, you get a positive response! He turned towards me and stood there with this beautiful expression about his face, his dreads framing his face in the perfect way. Everything about this instant was perfect. I did not even have to look at my camera screen to know I had captured what I wanted. Come to think of it, I had not even set my settings before clicking. But the point is, this is what I live for in photography. I want to look at people and observe. I want to understand what I find curious and interesting about them. Another example is that of a man and his daughter, still taken in the streets that lead to the bus station in the north:







However, over the course of “The Streets”, something struck me. I photographed the people in the streets they way they were and then I would think of a meaning to their expression, their action or a particular emotion. And I would interpret it in my fashion. Of course, I knew I could have been wrong to interpret things my way, but I never dwell on the thought of those wrong assumptions. The point eluded me for months until recently; it came back and persisted. 


Because I wanted to give my subjects a chance to express themselves, to show people who they are but also to give myself an opportunity to express how I perceive those same subjects, I began to think about a study. But things always sounding more elegant in French, ÉTUDES became the name of this project.


A study is an analysis you conduct on a particular subject with the aim of learning more about it. It is akin to an in-depth investigation of a circumstance or a subject. My project Études will be just that. It will be a study of people I find interesting and who stimulate me and puzzle me. Humans are a complex knot and it has taken a lifetime for some to begin to understand them. Humans are creatures of emotions and positive and negative emotions will still spark the interest of others. Through my study, I want people to see what I see in my subjects, and what the latter have and want to give. It’s a very personal project and you will see at times, numerous chapters about one person. Numerous chapters only mean that I want to explore more aspects of that person because I believe, people are surprising and they never cease to grow and amaze me. I can also hope that my pictures will tell you more about the way I see people and the respect, love and fascination I have for them.


My first subject for Etudes was Jasmina Ruben. She is very popular and you know her mostly from her job as a model and that of fashion editor these days. I will not again ramble about the extraordinary person she is; I will just say that I find her to be quite fascinating to a degree that I don’t think I can get bored photographing her. I will not let my perception of her taint your interpretation, and so I will let you forge your own opinion about the way you see her and the way she is. Here is the first image of my study of Jasmina:




 



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