Benoit Paille ◊

Stranger Tourist Self-Portraits continue the effort of the Strangers project that consists in bringing about brief encounters with strangers in order to create an improbable photographic event with the intimacy of their private image. Leaving for a time the urban places I went ahead to meet tourists on the beaches of Mexico full of all-inclusive hotel.

In engaging with strangers, I broke for a few moments the implicit barriers of public space and its anonym functioning as well as hyper individualist in an exacerbated context of leisure and consumption centered on the individual. Moreover, this particular environment allows me to capture the image of the body almost naked of the subjects, unveiled like no other place in society.

For this project, I also appealed a shutter release in order to give to the subject an apparent control over his picture where he manages himself the “decisive moment” which won’t rely into the photographer’s hands. Once the settings and composition are made, I have tried to erase myself completely from the moment to allow the stranger to face with himself.

Unlike Rineke Dijkstra’s work with teenagers where the subjects were approached during transitions moments, which were uncomfortable, the subjects from Stranger Tourist Self-Portraits are completely accomplished, full of the sun, the beach and the sea. From their vertical silhouette and composure emerge an obvious fullness, tinted with diverse affects coming from a light discomfort resorbed by the anonymity of the situation to a proud arrogance demonstrated by the muscles and an excessive tanning. The whole is magnified by a bright light of this environment all in all minimal, but which is a lot more than a simple crossing point where the subjects are intercepted. The beach and the sun represent a perfect oasis where the human being sets in the middle moreover, where he cares no longer about the others.I don’t know what his mother taught him, but Benoit Paille talks to strangers. As he travels all over the world, he approaches strangers, gets to know them briefly, then takes pictures of them. Contrary to the amateurish or taxonomic aesthetic of many conceptual photography projects, his photos are technically and compositionally flawless, as a textbook might have it, and close-up and careful as if it were a scheduled shoot rather than a man-on-the-street snapshot. In a recent addendum to his “Stranger” series, he invited strangers on the beach to take their own self-portraits using a remote shutter release – giving them control over their appearance at the moment the photo is taken.
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“Chambres” is the result of a long reflection on the opportunities and challenges of the implementation of performance poetry towards the medium of the book. By opting for photography, the authors were able to create environments and places for poems, and to give them a physical space to grow. The poem, in this perspective, is ultimately placed somewhere between photos and texts in these rooms, domestic spaces whose daily violence as whose of sexuality fight to escape.
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