Julien Pontarolo

Selection pour l’expert Eyes in Progress – Julien Pontarolo-1
Julien Pontarolo

Malian wedding in Paris suburbs

by Julien Pontarolo (France)

The series shown here document a Malian wedding that took place in the Paris suburbs. It attempts to highlight the importance of colors and fashion in this type of culture, while showing the many interactions and scenes of life that occur due to children and key moments of the wedding day. The compositions performed focus on the strongest textures and colors, while emotions transcribe joy of life and simplicity of africans family.

Portfolio from the Wedding Photojournalism workshop with Franck Boutonnet, May 2016.

Written review by SANDRO IOVINE,
Editor-in-chief at FPmag

Usually when speaking about wedding photography it is understood the images are destined to secure the iconic memory of a unique event (at least in the common auspices) in the life of not only one person but also of entire families.

The aim is to offer a positive portrayal of people and to stop time in the important moments of the rite. What emerges is actually a polysemic material that lends itself to different interpretations. Let’s do some quick examples. For the photographer it is the fruit of his work for which he will receive the fee agreed upon with the bride and groom. For the individuals, the couple who tie the knot, family members and guests, it is a documentation of the day and what happened in it. For a sociologist or an anthropologist photographs instead form a metonymic working material from which are derived considerations reflected on the group to which the people portrayed are part of.

It is interesting to note at this point how typically the possible interpretation levels of the images of the three examples cited tend not to overlap in a single entity. This is because the level of use is conditioned by the needs of the individual, which rarely coincide on more than one plane.

After this brief introduction it appears then decidedly interesting to note that in certain cases, on the contrary there may be a partial overlap, as was the work presented by Julien Pontarolo. In spite of his background of wedding photographer, Julien has indeed focused his attention on a broader setting than simple matrimony. It is dedicated to a Malian marriage celebrated in the Parisian suburbs.

It is a challenging endeavour if you wish to go beyond the surface of the ceremony, as the implicit of such a work is of significant depth. What Julien has illustrated is a story that goes far beyond the folklore of a more colourful ceremony than usual for us Europeans. Behind the façade there is in fact the reality of a culture uprooted from its land that seeks to keep alive the rapport with its own culture even in a reality far removed from the original one.

Julien states the vivid colours used in the clothes of the participants struck him. In the eyes of a European, in fact some of the guests’ clothes could appear more suited to carnival shows than at a wedding ceremony.
But the eye of the photographer captures other aspects of great interest. For example the newlyweds as part of the ceremony seem to follow the European tradition: she in white and he in a smart dark suit crossing the threshold of the Hotel de Ville. Two powerful symbols that, as part of the project, blend with traditional African clothes.

Julien underlines in his presentation the joyful atmosphere, the "joie de vivre" of the African families. In fact what emerges from the images is an empathetic collective participation full of gaiety, which seems more spontaneous and real compared to those circumstances, which more often than not emerge in similar wedding images of European families.

Overall, therefore, the work of Julien Pontarolo fully reaches its intended objectives and does so with charm and precision, without losing sight of the cornerstones of ceremony photography. Given the declared purpose
I also find that the selection in the editing phase is well done, concentrating the sequence more on the atmosphere of the day than on the key moments of the ceremony. This choice in my opinion enhances the work giving an additional reason of interest, which releases the images from the mere role of anchoring the memory for those involved.

In this sense, I would like to suggest to Julian to ensure that this work does not remain an isolated episode of his career as a photographer. Framed in another key the work on the Malian marriage could indeed be a much larger mosaic tile that takes into consideration, in a long-term period, the process of integration on the one hand and conservation of cultural roots on the other, in the Parisian banlieue. I like to imagine a work that continues in the years to collect images of weddings celebrated in Paris, but involving non-native ethnic groups. It could create a very interesting insight both from a historical as much as in a cultural point of view. The story of an era, ours where cultural influences are throwing seeds probably of radical change.

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