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Baptiste Giroudon – Interview

April 13, 2012

I recently contacted Baptiste Giroudon to find out little more about his current project Working with Democracy.  After seeing his work I was curious how he approached exploring the concept of democracy and what has lead him to where is now within the photographic industry.

Calais immigrants camp the “Jungle”, after eviction. Calais. France.2009

Firstly, can you please introduce yourself?

I’m a 29 years old French photographer living in Paris.

I always wondered how to express myself. With my father’s old camera I left toArgentinawhen I was 17 years old. This is where I understood how to use photography in the right direction for my personal work when in 2001 the country fell into a terrible economic crash. There I didn’t cover the bloody riots in the streets, the shops massive stealing or the daily chaos like photojournalists. But I focused on my own life and looked at what I could see as an individual, foreign and concerned  (international) citizen. The country was on hold, no body working, no trains, and no schools. So I shot the empty factories, schools and streets in little towns. I understood photography was strong enough to express myself using its own weaknesses:  used in a context of media interest, the camera can be an excuse to wander in a (media) space where everything can be used, or unused with a historical dimension, and most of the time, a democratic dimension.

Where do you currently reside, and what is your current role in the photography industry?

I live in Paris, I work on assignments for magazines, newspapers and private companies to make my living, and work on my personal projects on the side.

How did you reach your current position as a photographer?

I started as a photo assistant, Working a bit in studios and with different fashion photographers, I kept doing my own projects on the side, and then I met a photographer from a big news magazine, I assisted him for 2 years and then he took a position as a US correspondent, so I got his assignments (as a freelance of course) in Paris when he left.

An afghan worker on a US military base in Gardez. Afghanistan. 2009.

Did you study photography? If so, how important do you feel this was in developing your practice and your career?

I never studied photography in school or university. There I studied languages. But I learnt a lot, and keep doing so, in books, exhibition, on the field and from others everyday, this is one of the greatest things of photography, you just can’t stop learning!!

Dubai, UAE. 2010.

Was there a certain turning point in your career?

I dont really have a career yet, but if I have to look back there is 2 turning points that are linked not only with images and personal achievement (in terms of personal photographic answers) but also with countries and (off course) democratic (and mediatic) events. there is DRC Congo and the first presidential elections in the country in 2006 andAfghanistanin 2009, for their second presidential elections.

During a demonstration against Sarkozy’s government.  Paris, France. 2010

What photographers would you say have influenced your work, and what is your process behind choosing subject matter, and executing your outcomes?

As a kid and the starting point of my photographic interests there is the humanist generation of photo reporters like Cartier Bresson, Capa and others, as for my artistic influences this is an interesting mix I guess, such as William Christenberry, Alfredo Jaar, Luc Delahaye, Mitch Epstein, Jeff Wall, Guy Tillim…..

Can you tell us about your current project “Working with Democracy”

This project is a research. If photography can do one thing as a tool in a thinking dynamic, this is it, to search. I try to think about the concept of democracy. This is a project that tackles the grand issue of questioning the very notion of what democracy really is and stands for in the contemporary world. I try to question the post-romanticism photography of “the decisive moment” by using what calls David Campary the “after-photography”. I try to create images through a form of visual archaeology able to witness the passage of history (traces, fragments, silent portraits, deserted streets) and that attract our attention on a new way of looking at the media-so called stories. This is also an effort to recognize the ambiguities and contradictions present in the loss of the meaning of the word democracy. Finally I invite you to find connections, to wonder and travel in this infinite source of illusory promises that is democracy.

Can you describe your creative process?

As a photographer I think the creative process is very simple:

1: THINK

2: DO

3: CRITICIZE

and start again!!

You have described your intention as an artist and photojournalist equalling those of a tight rope walker with regards to expressing yourself without falling to one side or another.  How did you deal with this “febrile rivalry” whilst photographing “Working with Democracy”?

This is an everyday dilemma, this is very difficult for me because I make my living as a photoreporter, so every time I’m out there on assignments I also want to do my own thing, my own images….but to be honest it never works, I learnt that with the time. Today I d rather take an assignment to go to Egyptand work a few days for magazines, send the pictures, come back home, think, and leave again to the same place but only to do my own stuff… I can’t do both at the time, but I can do both at different times, like if I had two personalities.  For me being good at what you do is about choices so I make choices before I shoot.  For an assignment, or for me.

Also I made it easier with a trick, if I have a digital camera I work on assignment, if I have an analogue camera I work for me. So everything starts when I choose my camera before leaving!!!

Employee of the site of the pyramids, known as Pro-Mubarak.  Cairo, Egypt. 2011.

The images that make up “Working with Democracy” have been taken over years.  How has this project developed and has its final outcome changed throughout its creation?

Of course it has changed!!! Because my photography changed and I changed!!!!  It started in 2006, and at the time I was shooting black and white, look at the project  there isn’t any pictures in black and white. The project has developed at the same time as I have, this year was very intense and I think the digestive process will be very rich. I m running away more and more everyday from news pictures, and heading more and more to the conceptual….you’ll see in a few month!!!

Abu Salim prison, room N°13. Tripoli, Libya. 2011

What is the relationship between your personal and commercial work?

Apart from the media environment, None! (there is nothing from my commercial work on my website) When I work commercial I sometimes think of myself as a plomber, who makes money to be able to do his own pictures!!!

Do you think you need a philosophy as a photographer?

I think you need a philosophy, a self-consciousness as an individual.

Afghan National army soldier.  Afghanistan. 2009.

Can you tell us about any future projects or exhibitions you have planned?

There will a piece of  “Working with Democracy” project at Graanmarkt 13 gallery in Anvers in a collective exhibition called “Photographic Objects” around next September, I am also looking for a publisher, as a first draft of the project is ready.

If you would like to see more from Baptiste Giroudon you should look here www.baptistegiroudon.com

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