Maude was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine. The following is a short interview with this talented photographer about her street photography and travels around the globe.
How did you get started with street photography?
I don’t really know. I was traveling and shooting mostly architecture, and then I got more interested in people. So I timed my trips to see festivals, like Easter in Latin America for example. One thing led to another. Last year, I attended a workshop with Nikos Economopoulos in Ghana during the Fetu Afahye festival. This changed the way I looked at what makes a situation interesting to photograph and gave me new perspectives and inspiration. I am not sure that I have fully transitioned to “street photography” yet. I still do a lot of environmental portraiture.
Where are you from and what can you tell us about street photography in your home city?
I am originally from France, but now live in The Hague, The Netherlands. I find it very difficult to photograph here. This is partly because a lot of my photography involves choosing colorful backgrounds for my subjects, and these are not very common around here. Another reason is that I seem to be driven by curiosity when I take pictures. I find it extremely hard to find the motivation to shoot in environments with which I am overly familiar.
It looks like you’ve traveled quite extensively. Which city so far has been your favorite place for street photography and why?
Varanasi. It’s full of lovely buildings and colored walls. There are numerous people in the streets, the narrow maze-like lanes keeps the car traffic away and the river is bursting with activity. It is also a very sacred place with a special atmosphere. The presence of death is never far away, yet joy is truly present.
What have you learned from getting to travel and see so many parts of the world?
It’s hard to say. I guess personal evolution is a slow process and since I started traveling when I was a teenager, it’s become hard for me to differentiate between that part of me which has been influenced by my travels and that which was inherently present. Of course, being aware of how people live in other parts of the world helps remove the biased view that you have of your natural surroundings. That said, my family also comes from a mixed background and I, myself, lived in South Korea and Germany before settling in Holland. When you really live in a place and have to interact with local administration, buying food etc., you discover that your perspective is more deeply changed than it would be by spending 2 weeks in an exotic place where you barely scratch the surface. I wonder though whether it is not curiosity at encountering a new place inspires me to photograph. I have never photographed places where I have actually lived for more than several months.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of street photography and how do you rise to the challenge?
The hardest for me is to stay with the subject long enough and to keep shooting. I quickly get the feeling that I have taken enough of their time already. But in many places, people are extremely kind and welcoming and don’t share the western obsession with time management. Staying and making people oblivious to your presence renders them less self-conscious and even nicer scenes can develop. Recently, I tend to prefer traveling to one city and roaming about without feeling the pressure of time management and arranging travel to further places. I really enjoy going repeatedly to the same neighborhood of a city to see how life changes throughout the hours of the day.
Tell us a little about these images, if you don’t mind:
Mt Hagen in Papua New Guinea has a famous dance festival. There are so many participants that it’s a challenge for the organisers to find them space to prepare. So all the buildings close and the performance grounds are “invaded” by dancers getting ready. Including this car repair shop and, by the way, the saw mill! The dancers are distinctly happy to see people interested in their traditions and there is a palpable excitement in the air which is guaranteed to energize you and keep you shooting all day!
This is one of the times that I managed to stay with my subjects for quite a while. Some of my Canadian friends were helping a charity group in El Limonal, Nicaragua. The community had been displaced by a volcanic eruption and was relying on recycling items from the garbage dump to make a living. As part of the help afforded by the charity, professional hairdressers were providing haircuts. So, for the best part of an afternoon, people would just come and take advantage of the free service. It’s a good place to hear gossip about the town and, for a photographer, a great situation with many layers and people remaining relatively still for quite some time.
This is the Fetu Afahye festival in Cape Coast, Ghana. What I mostly liked about it is that it does not cater to tourists. It’s a local festival for local enjoyment. I don’t think that it features anything really spectacular in terms of costumes or special ceremonies. But the amount of energy and joy is really astounding. Lots of people converge on the Cape Coast at that time, filling up the streets and creating an ideal photographic opportunity.