Alexis Pazoumian works as a photographer and director. The notions of humanity, identity, society, and territory are at the heart of his subjects. Thanks to his travels, the young man always looks for closeness to the inhabitants and immerses himself in their intimacy by making reports over long periods of time. In 2012, Alexis decided to live in a favela in Rio de Janeiro for several months. He teaches photography to children and makes a documentary on the process of pacifying favelas in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games, followed by a photo report. A finalist in the Paris Match student photojournalist competition, Alexis then held his first exhibition in Paris. Afterwards, Alexis carried out various long-term projects in New Orleans, Armenia and more recently in Siberia on the problems of global warming. Alexis Pazoumian is membre du studio hans lucas since January 2016.
About FAUBOURG TREME
NEW ORLEANS, USA / Ten years after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, »Faubourg Treme » focuses on the daily life of the inhabitants of Treme, the mythical neighborhood of New Orleans, the cradle of African-American culture. I decided to meet these inhabitants in order to follow them in their daily lives. I found that music was the key to this rebirth as an open door to escape from life’s hostility. Faubourg Treme « is the story of a neighborhood that survived. It is a tribute to music, a saving and emancipation art for these inhabitants. Art that has interfered in every aspect of life Art that has allowed a people to live and resist. Art whose strength echoes in the eyes of everyone and which unites my portraits.
« It’s a timeless place, music is felt on every street corner, from the Gospel church to children playing the trumpet on the doorstep. »
What is the starting point of this series? The moment you decided to work on this subject and why?
My starting point was Treme with his Baptist church (« Mount Zion Baptist Church ») but my documentary took place in several districts (9th Ward, Marigny, musician village etc…). What made me want to discover New Orleans was above all because I am a jazz fan and I regularly followed musicians from New Orleans. During my stay, a musician advised me to watch this magnificent series « TREME » by David Simon (The Wire). At each episode I recognized actors, musicians that I had met the same day, the day before a concert, it was really incredible it allowed me to soak up the place very quickly. Also, discovering the neighborhood in which Jazz was born was impressive for me, it is a timeless place, the music feels at every corner of the street, going from the Gospel church to children playing trumpet on the doorstep. Jazz clubs and bars. Music is everywhere and has been integrated into all aspects of life, mixed with the many local cultures. I used to run a regular school band training to march down the street to get ready for Mardi gras. All the inhabitants have a more or less direct link with music.
At the moment you made your decision you can tell me in summary what are the personal and practical steps you have taken?
To be perfectly honest I went to New Orleans without any contact and very little preparation. I had a brief idea of what I wanted to talk about, but I had to be there to get a clear idea of the place. I rather work on the spot and instinct and I generally stay for a long time just to take the time to make contacts understand where I am and study my subject. For my last project in Siberia, I tried to organize it beforehand this time to save time. So the steps are very complicated for Russia and to have access to these remote areas. I managed to get in touch with the French alliance, a university that hosted me in exchange for a few photo courses etc. So from now on, I will proceed in this way, the easiest way is to meet French people who live there or organizations.
I’d like to get out of the picture and talk to you about cinema for me, it’s important from a personal point of view but I feel this impression in your work you were talking about the excellent series « Treme » is cinema having an influence?
Indeed I am a true cinephile, in parallel to photography I am also a director for several years and I am writing for my first short film. The films of Win Wenders (Paris Texas) or the first films of Iñàrritu (like Love Dog) inspire me immensely in my work as a photographer. But also Stanley Kubrick, James Gray, Akira Kurosawa, Milos Forman, Scorsese’s first films (The king of comedy, new-york new-york, Raging Bull, Taxi driver), Paul Thomas Anderson, Copolla, Hitchcock. Many more, but here are the ones that come to mind first.
Finally, do you have an idea that you have in mind if you can tell us about it even quickly about your future desires and projects?
As I said earlier, I’m preparing a short film about a gypsy community in the south of France that I’ve been working with and photographing for some time. Also my new documentary photo series is about a family of reindeer herders in Yakutia (Siberia region), I am studying the impact of global warming on this region through this community.
Interview Kalel Koven / In Frame