If a piece of art can reveal the engagement of the author for his art, the different stages required by the creation of the piece, from the idea till the presentation to the public, are rarely visible.
Being a photographer implies constantly experimenting, both physically and emotionally. To reach the most remote places, I endured long journeys, often uncomfortable. We forget the fatigue but not the heat, and I remember wandering the street of Varanasi under 45°, crossing rivers and riding soggy tracks for hours to reach isolated villages in Vietnam. It is also being able to cope with unpredictable situations, like not finding any boat willing to drop me on the islands of the Bajau, in Malaysia, getting lost for hours on mountain roads while looking for an ethnic village that has been displaced or having to deal with the moto breaking down in an isolated area. These experiences can lead to frustration, which instantly disolves as soon as I meet someone new.
The core of my philosophy as a artist has always been to take my time with people, to get to know them, and create the complicity that I nurture when visiting them several times. After all, if these journeys are exhausting, they not only allow me to discover myself but they also to fuel my need to meet people, to discover new cultures and promote diversity.
Way beyond the techniques that I employ in my photographs, the challenge is to convey the indescribable emotion I feel in each encounter. I carry with me many happy memories, moments spent smoking the cigar in the streets of Cuba, chatting about life and the world with these strangers that are suddenly not strangers anymore after sharing these moments of complicity, or smoking pipe with Vietnamese grandmas from the Highlands.
Their reaction when they see themselves on the camera, often for the first time and that they don’t even recognize their own face is worth all the efforts it took to find them.
Witnessing the generosity of people, everywhere I go, is another privilege of my work. I think of all these meals that I have been offered, sometimes by people with very modest income, of those who helped me when I was lost, or during my recent accident. Or like that time in the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam, when a family lent me a bike for me to finish my day while my bike was getting repaired. I feel lucky to experience the natural kindness of people and for all those reasons, it was obvious to me to develop a project like the Giving Back