A Photograph, A Story: "Mademoiselle Niang"

Miss Niang
"Portrait of Miss Niang!" Julien Gerard

Interview of Julien Gerard

- ArtPhotoLimited : Tell us in which contexte was that photo taken ?

    At that time, I travelled a lot for my work. I had a nomad life. I was in France for a few weeks when I took this photo. You have to know that when I’m in France I don’t take much photographs. Indeed, I find my inspiration in travelling, meeting people. In France, surely because it’s my roots, I don’t feel inspired. But, I really wanted to take a portrait of an African-American on a black background. A friend gave me the number of Sokhna (the model of the photography) and we improvised a photoshoot.

- Could you tell us more about her ? Her name, her origins ?

   Sokhna is from Senegal but she has been living in in France for many years. For the record, before the photoshoot, she called me to pick her up because she was late. By a strange coincidence, it turns out she lives in the same street as me when I’m in France !

  - Why did you choose a violonist movement for this pose ? Have you been inspired by a special music ?

   I didn’t choose anything. It’s Sokhna herself. She tried a few postures. As a reporting photographer, I never work in studio and I never direct my models. I don’t like that idea, I prefer capturing the spontaneity of my subjects.

  - What emotions did you want to make people feel ?

  The shooting was totally unexpected but I only knew that I wanted to shoot a monochromatic portrait. It’s very hard to make people feel emotions. But in my portraits, I try to say something … I think that emotions are different according who’s watching the photography. When I look to it, I can hear music and if it’s the same for you, then I’m happy to say that it’s a success !

  - Now, you are a reporting photographer in Benin. Could you tell us why this decision ?

After a complicated period for me, I was tired of being nomad. I wanted to settle down. But I couldn’t stop from travelling, most of my clients are from West Africa and I knew very well Benin. So, a year ago I decided to stay there. I won’t stay much longer in Benin even if I have many projects in progress : a book and many portraits to do. I hesitated between Morocco, Dakar and Benin when I choose to go to Benin so they could be my next destinations who knows ?.

   - Tell us about your project  "Change Face" and also about your projects in general.

"Change Face" is an artistic, cultural and documentary photographic project. The idea is to take shots of the people whom traditions are about face tatoos, scarifications or piercing. It’s a very longtime and money consuming project and it’s not going as quick as I want to. I’m also working on a book of Benin and of Morocco. In fact, I find my inspiration by travelling and meeting people.

  - Last question but more about your journey as a photographer. When did you know you’ll be a photographer ?

  I have taken shots since I was 12 years old and I’m 38 now but I never thought it will be my work. By the way, ten years before, I had a life completely different. But the opportunity to travel, take shots et most of all sell my fine arts, came along and I took it. I let myself guide by my inspiration up to now


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