« 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 the magnificent series « TREME » by David Simon (The Wire). At each episode I recognized actors, and musicians that I had met the same day, the day before a concert, it was 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, and 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 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 have also been a director for several years and I am writing for my first short film. The films of Win Wenders (Paris Texas) and 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