“WAITING”: Having always enjoyed shooting my backyard in my home neighbourhood of Brixton, I came to Paris thinking I’d explore the melting hot pot that was Belleville (my home in Paris for a few days) by documenting a few of the shop keepers in the Jewish, North African and Chinese areas. After a wander down Blvd Belleville on the first night it quickly became clear that the language barrier (unfortunately I cannot speak more than 3 words in French) was going to prove tricky for any sort of in depth study.
On this walk a ‘lavomatic’(self-automated laundromat) caught my eye. I liked the way it seemed to be a meeting point of different cultures, the sense of eternal waiting and the well used decaying state of it. It also struck me as very personal bringing your dirty laundry into a public space. It is common in Paris due to the small flats and high number of rentals but still considering our very isolated lives today it’s an unusual opportunity to catch people sharing one space while carrying out a rather personal task. What also really struck me is how time stands still in these places. Almost all of the people I encountered were just sitting watching the monotonous motion of their washing going round and round; not distracting themselves with their phones or books – perhaps a form of modern meditation.
This sense of waiting started to be the thread that strung the series together. A waiting for something that felt far more ominous than just the end of a washing cycle. The subject’s vulnerabilities felt palpable to me. The series became to me about us, humanity, perhaps waiting for the inevitable results of our actions…
This is a series that I’ll continue to explore in the UK.
Portfolio from the Visual storytelling workshop with Ed Kashi, March 2014.
Written review by
Director at GEO magazine
Waou! I have to acknowledge that you did a very interesting work full of opportunities. Véronique explained to me the difficulties you experienced at the beginning in order to make this project happen, but I definitely see that you were able to overcome them and obtain a great result.
Let's comment on a few things. In order to start with the review. I have to say I could never imagine a laundromat could be so crowded with photographic opportunities. But what mostly fascinates me is not that much the laundromat but the way you explored all the possibilities until you found one that could match with your abilities and approach. Actually, this is what happens in professional life. Many times "man proposes but God disposes". This means that we need to be prepared in trying everything, but also be able to change of plans and adapt to circumstances. In common language between writers and journalists, it is usual to say one writes with the back of the pen, or differently said, that you write and re-write as many times as necessary until you reach what you really want. In photography, it is the same I'm afraid. You search and you search until you find a theme with which you can identify in order to say what you really what to say.
This said, let's talk about how you focus in your work. I personally like that this kind of projects keep a certain consonance, that the working line is straight forward and allows the viewer to see the progression. And I can see that in your work. I think there are 2 fields that needs to be respected in order to success in this kind of works: first, be able to record the atmosphere in those places; second, be able to reflect the kind of people that use those places without being too obvious. Maybe there would be a 3rd field, but this would depend on your initial approach. With it, you'd enter directly in the area of social complaint, or if you prefer, social reality.
In the 1st field, the one related to the atmosphere, your photographs perfectly transmit the existing atmosphere in those Laundromats (I nearly can feel it!). I had the opportunity to come as a client in those places in the US and it reminded me of the hours spent there: general boredom, liturgical monotony, endless waiting. You manage to transmit this with the photographs of empty chairs, bored faces and blank faces.
In the 2nd field, the one related to people, I can also see you haven't chosen the easiest and you used a very wide variety of people. That way, you manage to show the diversity of people using this service and their social condition. And you do it with the right sensibility that this kind of work requires. I like that you use short plans in your photographs. All of them follow the same line, the same approach. I think that with this you give coherence to the content, which helps the viewer understand the message you're trying to transmit. But you don't stay there, you bring other images where, please say if I'm wrong, you enter the field of reporting, of documentary, and that's why I am guessing that, given the sensibility you demonstrate here, you might want to explore this difficult field in the future.
With what's related to technics, I also observe you have multiple resources and you use them with no doubt. You use blur, depth of field and perspectives, you play with lights and shadows. In general, everything is good in your project. I do encourage you to keep going with it. I think that if you introduce small technical variations and you amplify them, let's say to other countries, you could have a very complete work.
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