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AU COIN DE MA RUE

AU COIN DE MA RUE

The Duality of Indifference

 

Since I am young, I am fascinated by strangers.

While waiting for a bus, while standing in a line, my eyes are always drawn by a specific person

At that exact moment, I can’t stop wondering what he is thinking, what he is doing, what are his fears and joys.

I am sure I am not unique in this, but the indifference of the public sphere has often puzzled me…I don’t understand how dozens of people cross each other daily without manifesting any feeling. This neutral and apathetic mask…

Personally, some anonymous people leave a real trace on me.

I don’t really know what attracts my eyes? I think I am touched by a certain attitude, an imperfection that makes the person interesting. An intangible something that reflects into their expression.

 

Seven years ago, I decided to embrace this obsession and decided to capture some of these people passing with a camera.

I bought a 50mm lens, and simply started asking to take their portrait.

After 300 portraits (https://aucoindemarue.wordpress.com/),  I realised that this mark was too ephemeral. I wanted to know more. I wanted to enter their intimate thoughts. I didn’t want to detail the dressed person such as street style photographers, I wanted to “undress” him and as a voyeur, enter his life and thoughts as much as possible.

I decided to recontact 30 persons out of these 300 portraits. I know it was strange and knew I would be confronted to negative responses but these people were crazy enough to let me enter their life.  I photographed them each year on a five year period with each year a different theme.

At first it was a selfish sociological experiment. I thought that meeting them a few times in my life would not change my perspective towards them. But very quickly, a feeling of trust and complicity started to grow. I realized that’s what happen when people are no longer anonymous people anymore. We start caring for them. “A stranger is actually a friend that you haven’t met yet”(William Butler Yeats).

Ironically, this art project took an unexpected twist in the last year of the project:

7 years ago I didn't know any of these strangers but little by little, our attachment to each other had indeed grew out of the project itself on so many different levels. 

On the other hand, In my private life, 7 years ago,  the person I was the most intimate with, was my husband ( father of my 3 children). I was convinced he would love me unconditionally but abruptly, last year, he behaved like a pure stranger. I didn't recognize him no more. I  was denigrated and denied like a vulgar passer-by. 

 

Somehow a reversed path between my artistical project and my private life...

 

Being very closed on myself during that difficult year, from a more respectable distance, each one of the "strangers" sent me so many signs of tenderness. They were there for me if needed. Before leaving Amsterdam, I decided to immortalize this 'friendship' in a very simple way: a simple embracement. Embracing someone is a pure and tender act which symbolize intimacity at it's best, I find... (YEAR 5)

 

Now that the project ended, I  realise so vividly how indifference can be found everywhere. Not especially in the public sphere. In private sphere (family, office...) also! 

I am not urging everyone to speak to one another all the time but I am convinced that happiness relies on small unpredictable moments in life and we can create these moments everywhere. A smile to a stranger who seems blue, complimenting another, helping someone struggling with something...

I know it may seem simple and naive but if we could simply look a little more what happen next door. It’s easy to take always a distance and consider anonymous people as THEY, as the others. But at the end of the day, we are all « the others ».

 

 

Detailed per year :

 

YEAR 2

 

As I am a little pudique, I couldn’t be too invasive immediately. I asked the persons I had met in the street one year before to bring objects that they would save if their house was burning down.

Even if an object has a superificial connotation, I felt it would it give insight into the person, into his passions, his family…

Behind every object there is a story and even though I didn’t ask too much personal questions, that would help me understand  more easily who was standing in front of me.

 

YEAR 3

  

The third year, I, of course wanted to go even deeper. I chose to make them pose together with one of their best friends. To understand a person better in my opinion is to meet a good friend of theirs and immortalize  their relationship. With a friend, after all you are forced to be yourself, show the real person. You can’t pretend or show off. The friend will immediately bring you back to reality.

 

YEAR 4

  

Because of social networks, increasing of cameras in daily life, selfies… with the years I realised everyone became more used to posing. Persons have a better knowledge of their image.

 

When I was asking them 5 years ago to pose for me in the street, there was a shy look, a bended leg, they were trying to hide behind their bag or something.

Now this innocence is fading away. But I am searching for this vulnerability.  I don’t want the controlled perfect image.

Therefore, I need to place them in a more vulnerable position.

 

So this year I decided to invite them to spend the night at my place or I would go over to their place and I am making a picture at 7PM &  and I wake them up at 7AM to make a second picture of them. I felt that the only moment of the day when a person doesn’t have any shield is the moment a person opens his eyes for the first time. I always adored this “fighting” moment when our conscious gets out of the irreality of dreams to face reality. Just the moment before the world hurts us.

 

The experience of taking these early portraits has been amazing.

 

Entering their place as a burglar to wake them up was kind of special and for me (who doesn’t even dare stealing a piece of gum) quite an experience. As from that moment, now, we are bound forever by this early wake up. The funny small thing I realized is that I thought I would have 20 min to shoot the expression of a person waking up but actually no, the uninhibited glaze in the eyes of a person dispears in 5 min…Behind my camera I could really see in a matter of second that the person was taking his face, his body back in control. The vulnerable human being was gone.

 

 

YEAR 5

 

Normally for this last year (5th year), I wanted to express the climax of intimacy that I built with these 30 strangers, but I also added a sub-project to it.

Ironically, in parallel, in my private life, the man I lived with 13 years, with whom I was the most intimate with, ended up being a pure stranger; a person I didn't recognize no more and would never have suspected to be such person.

 

I therefore decided to break the last year into two projects:

 

B. I decided for the first time to turn the lens around and to express what indifference feels like - Project still in progress.

A. Being very much closed on myself during that difficult year, I was astounded to receive so many signs of tenderness from all these people.

Our attachment to each other had indeed grew out of the project itself on so many different levels.I decided afterall to immortalize this 'friendship' in a very simple way: a simple embracement. Embracing someone is a pure and tender act which symbolize intimacity at it's best, I find...

 

 

After such journey, I couldn't just stop the project like that. Eventhough I was starting a new life in Brussels, we decided I would photograph them in 5 years again (Ten years after the first picture)...thus in 2019. etc...