Helene Bozzi is a wonderful documentary photographer and director. Her black and white images are raw and powerful, the subjects are often wanderers, unattached people, some near her home in Paris, others thousands of miles away. A real human with a wise understanding of the human condition.
Here is our chat:
ARBOL-Where did you grow up?
HB- I grew up in France in the suburbs of Paris, and quickly decided to move to the city. To be in the center. Paris has an incredible mix of people
ARBOL- What does travel photography mean to you in your work?
HB- Traveling to a foreign country with a camera, means facing a new world with theses eyes that are ours since birth, looking through the optics of our experiences. I like facing a new world, new situations, new lands, immersing myself in something unknown.
ARBOL- Tell us about photography and film making.
HB- My father was an amateur photographer, so I was in the lab developing film by age 5. I had a camera by age 8. I’ve carried a camera with me ever since. It's really a central part of my life. Everyone around called me “Helene the photographer” very early, I was always asked to take portraits as a teenager, I can’t remember not having always seen myself as a photographer. Photography is a great medium to capture moments. Later in my career came the need to develop the dimension of story-telling, for which I went to film school. I really like sound and movement and a timeline, so moviemaking is ideal in those ways. I recently did a project, photographing factories in Budapest, where one could really feel the once powerful Russian influence on the working class, and in the end felt the need to add sound, and turn it into a documentary with a slideshow.
ARBOL- How do you communicate with subjects in faraway places when you don’t necessarily speak the same language?
HB- When you photograph people you invariably touch your subject’s dignity, so it's important to communicate with him or her so that he understands who you are and what you do. Without a translator, you need to be inventive, but they are many ways. In India I used a recorder and made musicians I met listen to the voices of the musicians that I met before them and they understood quickly that my subject was traditional music.
ARBOL- What is your greatest trip?
HB- The trip to India was my favorite, first because it’s like a first love, it was my first trip, and second because I was joining a community in its own country, I was very excited about making connections between the music and where it comes from.
ARBOL- Tell me about these photographs here.
HB- This was a series about nomads in Kyrgyzstan. The gipsy soul holds a lot of fascination for me, the notion of freedom in those cultures compared to our Western view of it.