– How long did you work in Beijing for the residency ? was it your 1st residency ?
I was in Beijing for two weeks in May/June last year. Dieter Neubert was hosting the 2016 edition of the Kassel Fotobook Festival in Beijing, and together with Pierre Bessard, they decided to commission a book to be shot prior to the festival, have the designer Syb Kuiper there, and present a dummy of the book at the festival. Edit Beijing is the result. It was my first residency. Initially, at least when I arrived in Beijing, I had misunderstood Pierre and thought the project was a sort of guerilla publishing exercise in which a book was to be shot, laid out and printed in two weeks, and I was somewhat skeptical that this great feat could be achieved with any coherence. Fortunately, as I said, the idea was to only to shoot and present the initial edit and and design. Syb made a presentation and I answered some questions at a session of the festival.
– The book is only made of portraits in the street, and some pages offer triad views. What is your purpose in this photobook ?
Hard to say what the purpose of the book was except, as you can see, to make street photographs. The location could have been Rome, or Moscow say, and I would have been just as happy.
– In your series « joburg – points of view » or « second nature – Sao Paulo », you are not in front of the people, or rarely. Is it a new way of photographing for you ? Are you now a street photographer ?
I have been working in African cities for some time now and, as you noted, the pictures up to this point have rarely been made in front of people. They have been more ‘cityscapes’ than street photographs. I wanted to go closer. I learned something valuable while making those ‘cityscapes’. The more visible you are to people in the streets, the more invisible, in a certain sense, you become. So standing in plain sight with my tripod-mounted camera, I became instantly seen, assimilated, and ultimately, overlooked, which as you know, is often a desirable state of being for a street photographer.
– The book is so well produced that i am pretty sure you like it, but what is your opinion on the design by Sybren Kuyper ?
The images are mostly conceived as diptychs, (occasionally triptychs or singles), separate images made side by side and displayed side by side. They of course suggest a continuous scene but are not. I found the images taken and presented in this way amusing to make and playful on the eye. I think the design of the book by Syb is superb. When I received the book and wrote to Syb to tell him what I thought he replied that his sole sole aim was to not get in the way of the pictures. Well, in his line of work this may be less modesty than a boast, but in my view he succeeds in more than that, which is to subtly and exquisitely frame the photos. I’m grateful.