I remember it well. It was in summer, among Toraja people, in the Sulawesi, Indonesia, a few years ago. I remember the typical rooftop of their architecture; the legend attributed it to the boats their ancestors would have used to come from China centuries ago. It was hot, really hot. I had been walking there for a week now, through villages with very friendly people, where we can share a good laugh without speaking the same language. It was a very interesting moment with those people who still live with their “dead”.
Upon your death in fact, people are turned into a mummy, and could “live” with their family up to a few years till their burial. At this time, there is a buffalo gift as a sacrifice. For Toraja, you are just asleep. Those animist people convert to Christianism more than a century ago, because Jesus’ resurrection was compatible with their faith. Well, I was in the middle of the summer, with all my lenses and camera on my back, asking myself: “Why the hell do I have to carry such a heavy equipment?”.
Later, back in France, I had no more love story with my camera stuff, even when my friends from the burlesque scene asked me to come to take some funny pictures.
I am now 40 years old. I started argentic photography at 17 years old, then switched to digital camera. I made a break at 30 after a coma and started again to do photo reports with new travels. But at this time, I had no more pleasure.
At this time, after having weighed pros and cons on what to do for a few months, I switched to Fujifilm. Photography is a subject of compromise: topic, quality, budget, weight and so many aspects. But as any activity, it could be also a subject of pleasure. I started to enjoy having a camera in my hands again. My first trip after that was Filipinas, a country in Asia where people have Spanish names and speak English. I spent some time in the mountains with Kalinga people, formerly known as headhunters, quite famous now for their traditional tattoos. Another aspect sometimes we do not take into consideration is the psychological aspect of a camera. A female friend of mine – who does wedding photography – likes to have big full frame camera in order not to be bothered by amateur guys around. Well, for me, in photo reporting, it is quite the contrary: I do enjoy having something quite small. It is easier for people to get used to it.
Another important subject is: what sort of lens do I travel with? Right now, I use 23mm, 56mm as well as 100-400mm. I bought the tele lens for my trip in Mongolia because it had been a dream to go there since I was a young boy. For street photography, I enjoy the 23mm lens (equivalent of a 35 mm lens in full frame). For portraits or low light photography, I enjoy the 56mm f1.2 lens. And the 100-400mm lens has become my new fetish lens, both for wildlife and landscapes from far away (for example, from one mountain to another one).
While I was traveling in remote places, I did not always see what I expected to see. Let me explain: sometimes, some photo reporters are looking for “traditional” subjects. In some places, what looks “traditional”, you can find it only in very touristic area… the truth is, I found people with smartphones in very remote places like some jungle in Asia. So, what makes a good photograph? The same photograph we have seen several times, same place, same everything or something never seen? Or just the right emotion? With the impact of social media and mass tourism, we can ask ourselves what we want to see.
Another subject that came from my more artistic work: do I have to process my own images? Because we are talking about sharing emotions. For a long time, I did not process my photos. Now I do work with Exposure, and process it. When I do artistic photography, I process a photo the way I wanted to create it. When I process a report photograph, what I ask myself is what was the feeling I had when I was there, how do I share this with the people that will see the photo. Do I need to process it or not, put it in black and white perhaps…?