Feel the city 2


You’ve found your groove! That’s what John Harper has been telling me for some time. I’ve been on Reunion Island for 18 months and it’s true that I’ve come a long way since I started documenting the streets of Saint-Denis. I know from experience that it always takes some time to feel comfortable in the streets. It seems to me that it had taken a little longer in Aix-en-Provence. Normal because I was new to Street Photography.

 

 

I need to know the city, understand how it works in order to feel comfortable and take pictures effortlessly. I admire the photographers who manage to take pictures everywhere when they travel. Of course I can take pictures anywhere, but I need time otherwise I don’t feel connected with what I’m doing and things are more complicated. When I went to Paris for a few days, I brought back some nice photos, but it has nothing to do with what I did in Aix-en-Provence or Saint-Denis.

 

 

I need to live in the city where I photograph to soak up the atmosphere and ultimately be part of this city that I photograph. Even if I was able to do an interesting job in Bristol where I had stayed 7 days, I only scratched the surface of this city … There is always at the beginning this moment when the very discovery of the city ​​makes you curious and where you have this kind of euphoria that allows you to take beautiful photos. Subsequently, the soufflé falls because there is no longer this effect of novelty that carried you and that is where it is complicated … But the best is yet to come and this is where we must insist , renew oneself, and it takes a lot longer to somehow master the city. For me it is counted in months. It takes time for me to feel free and things to fall into place. Basically after having lived in Aix-en-Provence and now in Saint-Denis, I would say that it takes me roughly 18 to 24 months to get to this level.

 

 

I speak from my experience. I don’t know if this is valid for other photographers. Some people cannot do Street Photography where they live and only take pictures elsewhere when traveling. Unthinkable for me, but we are not all the same and that’s good ! What is important to me is like I said to understand how the city works. I need that to know where to go to take pictures, at what times … It’s all the more important in a city like Saint-Denis.

 

 

It is not a tourist city with places that concentrate people. It is the antithesis of Aix-en-Provence. Here it is a very different city and you have to know where there is action. And also when ! I already knew that on Mondays the streets were quite deserted because most of the stores were closed. But I just realized (after 18 months …) that on Fridays, most of the small stalls run by the Arab community were absent because it is the most important day for prayer for Muslims ! Casually, it’s the little details that make the streets different on those days. During the school holidays, the streets are much livelier too.

 

 

This understanding of the city is essential for me to feel comfortable. I spent enough time tirelessly roaming the same places in the city to make it my own and to feel a certain legitimacy in photographing it. I am no longer a passing tourist here. I live here and I now document the city of Saint-Denis. There will be days without my eyes seeing nothing, my SD card full of worthless crap, but that’s the curse of any street photographer. We often come home frustrated by our little outings in the street. But I know how this city works. It’s the most important.

 

 

all the photographs were made with the Fujifilm XF10.

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2 thoughts on “Feel the city

  • John Harper

    The soufflé has risen perfectly…chef de caméra is in his groove! I agree, you have to know your city, its routines and people. We observe, the better we become at observing the nuances of a city there follows an improvement in the photographs. That said it doesn’t do any harm to travel to new places, the culture and people, for me it opens my eyes. That said the best photos are from the place you know best. Q.E.D. with the examples you’ve presented here.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      As you said, travels make you open your eyes and be curious, but when you travel, you just scratch the surface. You need more time to make some significant work. I need to be connceted to the work I’ve made and only time make this connection possible.