After five years studying visual communication in Paris and working for advertising agencies in Canada and Germany, I chose to move to London to broaden my experience and study photography.
What first caught my attention when focussing on this new field of study is the analogy between hunting and photography. It first came to my mind when I realized how my efforts to step away from my family’s path had been subverted. My ancestors, back in the mountains of Algeria were well known to be hunters, and I thought I had made the choice of a career far from everything they knew. But as I began sharpening my practice as a photographer, I noticed how I started talking like a hunter: capture, shoot, aim and loading the camera (with film), these words and phrases are common to both hunting and photography. It felt as if the camera itself, with its viewfinder and trigger, could be considered a weapon. In her book “On Photography”, Susan Sontag says: “there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder”.
My project, “Drunk”, is an exploration, a kind of hunting expedition that focuses on seeking out nightlife in London’s East End. Alcohol, with its incredible ability to temporarily erase inhibition, strips away that hard veneer that each of us has built around ourselves, creating a brief path to more intimate relationships. There is some vulnerability in inebriated people, which underscores a photographic approach and reflects the idea of predation I previously mentioned. However, the primary focus of this project is the creation of an intimate encounter between photographer, subject and medium. At this point there is a departure from the hunting analogy and a more collaborative and consensual relationship is adopted.
After working exclusively with black and white film, sharpening my vision, technical skills and approach to my subjects, I decided to develop a stronger link between the medium and the subject. As alcohol affects people’s behaviour, I chose to integrate alcohol chemically into my photographic process, by soaking color negative films in alcohol before shooting. Chance has a huge role to play in this experiment. The outcomes are unpredictable. I voluntarily renounced an element of control in my picture-making, mirroring my subjects behaviour under the influence of alcohol. This technique creates images far from the usual “night out” imagery commonly found on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram, creating new oneiric narratives.
This journey, both geographically in East London, and practically in the tradition of photojournalism, has been a way for me to develop my practice as a photographer and also to become a part of a community.