Sarah Leduc

Sarah Leduc


by Sarah Leduc (France)

Pigalle. Mythique quartier du 18e arrondissement de Paris où se côtoient touristes, fêtards parisiens, maquereaux, danseuses et prostituées. Mon quartier pendant des années. Magda, travesti algérien de 65 ans, y vit et y travaille depuis plus de 30 ans. Indépendante, elle guette le client depuis son appartement qui donne sur rue.

Portfolio from the Documentaire workshop with Patrick Zachmann, June 2012.

Written review by ERIK VROONS,
Editor-at-large for GUP Magazine

Prostitution, gambling, sex shop and Moulin Rouge. A classic objective in photography and therefore all the more difficult to shed new light on the matter at stake. The photographer is familiar with the neighbourhood – has been part of it for many years. This may help because there is a matter of trust to get close-ups and make more of this than a cliché reportage. The photographer Sarah Leduc smartly made use of the existing (neon)lights in the area.

This – the saturated colours - leaves a certain atmosphere that create a higher attention. The aesthetic has a function: it grabs attention in order to have the viewer interested in the story. This is not always successful. A better edit is needed as some pictures do not really add up to what we have already seen before (both by others in the past and from previous images in the series itself). The first three images, for example, do not immediately articulate the subject matter; it is related to street photography, more than a documentary about a certain subculture related to that street.

The portrait that follows is strong; it says a lot of the subject and is esthetically engaging. But to make the close-up more natural –we normally do not get at such a close range with a stranger- I think the picture that follows of that same women needs to be second. So: picture #1, #5, #4 (in that order) would be my suggestion for an introduction. Further stronger pictures are the blond women at the car (#7) the redheaded women in the bar (#9), the Asian woman (#10), and the ‘Dirty Dick’(#13) . The other images have less impact and do not have that esthetic needed to release the images from their original place (Place Pigal) in order to symbolize that same place.

This is the artistic translation that any documentary photographer has to make. If, indeed, Sarah has the advantage of really knowing the neighbourhood and its people she can take that further step, that will give extra impact to the story. We, the viewers, need to feel that privilege to be at such a close range to that what already carries our curiosity. These images need that extra context. The aesthetics of using the environmental/surrounding lighting can be a lead for future projects; it can be implemented to make the personal style of photographing more recognizable and referring to this particular photographer. In other words, it can help to claim authorship.

But I also think that the images function best when imbedded in a more abstract way, for the icons of prostitution and street life are too stromnh in itself, leaving a danger of cliché and hence, not engaging the viewer in the story. Suggestion: a multimedia presentation. including sound/interviews – an early example of what I mean is ‘Carnaval Strippers’ by Susan Meiselas

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