[interview with the French Photographer Jean-Marc Caracci about his project “Homo Urbanus Europeanus“]
by Sorin-Mihai Grad
1. Everybody is taking photos of churches while visiting a new city. How come that after intensively clicking into the galleries on your project’s site I did not notice any church?
Well, working on the “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” project, I am not focused in any special kind of building. I just walk a lot, locating places that would fit for a good shoot. So, it could be a church, why not, but it depends on its architecture, the light coming on it, and most of all on the possibility to shoot one person in the set I want to shoot.
2. Most of your photos feature a man in front of or passing by a building. Do you also talk to your subjects? Do you send them the pictures when they are ready?
No, no… I never talk with my “characters”. Mainly they even don’t think that they are shooted by me. You know, I use a 28 mm lens, and I am usually distant about 15 to 25 meters from the person.
3. How long do you stay in one place until the proper man to fit in the photo appears?
As I said above, my main job is to locate the right place… then to wait for the right light and the right silhouette coming into the image. So believe me, I can wait about one hour, just not moving almost, at the same place, ready for shooting… till I can catch the right moment: set + light + character. And it often happens that I come back every day [during 7 days, time of my shooting stay in a capital] at the same place… till I get the image I want. It has been the case, for example, for the photos: Reykjavik 1 – Lisbonne 2 – Belgrade 2 – Oslo 1 – Vilnius 1 – Prague 2, on the portfolio below: http://homo.urbanus.free.fr/portfolio/index.html
4. How do you find the places and buildings you take photos to? Do you read about the capital and its main buildings before visiting it or you just let the city reveal itself and inspire you?
I don’t read anything before coming to the capital… as I don’t care famous places, squares and so on. Once again, my job is to walk… and find out the right place. You know, the images of the “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” project, whether made in Bucharest, Tallinn or Paris, are characterized by their “europeanity”. National and cultural particularities are excluded, as much as possible, from its sphere of activity. So, looking at the images of the project, nobody can recognize any country or city [except their inhabitants themselves]… but everybody is able to recognize Europe on all of them. This is actually the aim, the philosophy of this project.
5. How long do you stay in one place to take photos? Does this depend on an initial schedule, on money or on when you feel like being ready with it?
I usually stay 7 to 10 days. Actually 7 days is enough for shooting HUE in a capital, but if I go to the northern part of Europe, or if I go to the southern part but out of summertime, I schedule a longer stay, about 10 days… because in these cases I know that the weather can be cloudy and/or rainy. And as you can see on my images, I mainly use the sun and the shadows. When it is cloudy/rainy outside, I just go underground. See images Prague 2 – Sofia 4 – Ljubljana 1 – Bruxelles 5.
6. Is there a capital of whose photos for your project you are not totally satisfied? If so, will you go back there?
Yes, I plan to go back for shooting Bratislava again. It was the first capital of the project, and when I was there, I was not sure about what I wanted… I mean which style I wanted to give to the project. So Bratislava’s series is not very good, according to the style of the project. Maybe I will stay 2 days in Bratislava in July… between shooting Budapest and Vienna.
7. I understood that you intend to sell the photographs and to publish some books with them, but before doing these how is your project financed? Do you have any sponsors for it?
The “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” project is not financed, and I pay for all. But of course I book the cheapest flights, and most of all, I never go to the hotel [one of my biggest job, when I am not shooting a city, is to find some hosts, writing to artists, cultural centers and so on, searching on Internet, and writing e-mails and e-mails].
Fortunately, I start to rent/sell exhibitions of the project… like in Sofia [Bulgaria] and Balingen [Germany], for example. Or sometimes, like in Tirana, Albania [where I will go very soon], I am invited by the Cultural Attaché to the French Embassy.
8. Did any of the places you visited for this project make you say that you would love to live there?
Ha ha !… I am very lucky to live in Montpellier, one of the most attractive cities in France [ask to the parisian people, they should agree ((:]… so believe me, there is no place I would chose instead of my beautiful south. And you know, I only visit the capitals for the project… that are interesting places for shooting “Homo Urbanus”, but never for living.
9. On your site is written that you plan to visit capitals of small states like Vaduz and Pristina, but not Monaco, San Marino or Andorra la Vella. Were these deliberately omitted?
Yes they were… because they are the stupidest frontiers and “states” in Europe.
10. Why did you entitle your project “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” in Latin and not in English or French? What do you hope to achieve by the end of the project?
I wanted to title the project with some words internationaly understandable. Because it is not a project about France, or about this country and this other one… but a project about our old and wonderful Europe. You know, I like to say, regarding the “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” project: “I am working for Europe”. On a philosophic level, the project clearly takes indeed a politic option. Having Europe as a frame, and mainly its capitals, the idea is to gather all European countries by photography… whether they already belong to a European Union or not yet. With one world: I don’t like the idea of fronters… even the idea of flag. Flags and frontiers are, according to me, some middle age conception of the world.
11. What is your personal opinion on the European Union, is it necessary, does it bring more advantages or disadvantages for an European?
The European Union has been created as a “tool” against the war. So believe me, we should not care any kind of disadvantages… because the most important advantage is PEACE.
Enjoy your capital, enjoy Europe… it is what I want to say with the “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” project.
12. You recently visited Bucharest. Given the fact that many say that Bucharest is a grey city, is it an advantage for our capital that you take only white/black photos?
Ha ha !… “Grey” or not, colors are everywhere in cities [advertisments, trees, clothes and so on], so shooting in black & white is the best for keeping focused on the subject: the Man, in the City, in Europe. But you are right, Bucharest is rather “grey” and missing space… mainly space for people, space for enjoying the city. It appeared to me that all is done in Bucharest for cars… and nothing [well, rarely] for pedestrians. This large fountain for example, at Piaţa Unirii, would be perhaps the most beautiful in Europe… if the Bucharest’s Major decided to make it forbidden for cars. Really, I dream to see this wonderful fountain once, as a part of a huge and quiet garden.
13. Anything else you would like to mention about your visit in our country?
I would like to say a very special thank to Ana and Emil, two French speaking Romanian people living in Bucharest… for their trust, help, generosity and kindness. And of course, I would like to thank Mihaela and Thomas, who generousely hosted me in Bucharest.
14. Thank you for this nice interview and for providing us the photographs to illustrate this issue’s “images” section of EgoPHobia!
Thanks to you, Sorin-Mihai.
# versiunea română a acestui text poate fi citită aici.