MORE than five years ago French photographer Jean-Marc Caracci embarked on an ambitious project to map 31 European capitals through photography. The “Homo Urbanus Europeanus” project captures capitals from Reykjavik to Sofia, from Lisbon to Tallinn, focusing on the issue of solitude, potentially positive, within a crowded city.
As the project includes pictures from Bratislava - and in fact, the whole initiative was launched in the Slovak capital back in June 2007 - it is no surprise that it will also be presented here. The Central European House of Photography, Prepoštská 4, is exhibiting his images, which will remain on show until the end of September. Caracci came in person to open the exhibition on September 5.
“My project is about the ‘man’ in the ‘city’, in Europe – let’s say about the ‘European urban being’,” Caracci informed The Slovak Spectator in an interview.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How did you choose the capitals that you visited?
Jean-Marc Caracci (J-MC): Actually, I didn’t choose the capitals (at least not in the beginning of the project); on the contrary, they chose me in a way.
I have been to 31 European capitals (over three years), and I didn’t have any budget for staying in hotels - for at least seven days in each of them. So my biggest task was first to find people, everywhere in Europe, who would agree to host me, for free and for a week.
And my biggest [source of] pride was that I found them. Surfing endlessly on the internet, I [re]searched cultural associations, organisations, photo clubs, photographers, artists, and so on. Then I wrote to them about myself, my project, and my need [to be] hosted for free. When somebody wrote me back and said I was welcome to stay in their home, that was the moment to book my flight. This is why I use to say that I have been chosen by the capitals, rather than choosing them.
Note that Bratislava was the first capital I [visited] for the “HUE” project… simply because I had some good friends there who were of course able to host me.
TSS: Why did you choose to photograph in black-and-white?
J-MC: I can personally bear a colour photo when it is not too colourful; I mean with only a few tones. Yet, as a street photographer, I always work in black-and-white, because it is almost impossible to make a colour photo with nothing, no urban object, no advertising that would disturb the glance because of its colour. Regarding this project, for example, I wanted to focus my style on the lights, the shadows, the lines, the geometry using all of that to photograph the “urban being” in a beautiful setting.
TSS: Were the portraits somehow prearranged, or are they snapshots?
J-MC: Never arranged with people or any kind of model. Well, except for one photo; but I will not tell you which one. You can try to guess [when] visiting my exhibition in the Bratislava gallery, or looking at my portfolio online.
TSS: As for the book, how did you choose the local writers to write the text?
J-MC: I have been working for almost one year on the album “Homo Urbanus Europeanus”, a book which will include 31 original short texts written by 31 European writers. The Slovak contributor will be writer Peter Krištúfek.
Searching and finding all these writers was a very long and time-consuming job. On the other hand, the way I chose them was very basic: in fact, I first worked on making a list of authors, well known in their own countries.
Then I started to write to them about the album project and my wish to include them among the contributors. If the author agreed to take part, I put them on my list; if not, I wrote to another one.
TSS: In which language(s) are the texts in the book?
J-MC: In three languages: the one of the author, French and English. By the way, the job was not only to find and convince writers, but also to find and convince literary translators; so actually the album will bring together about 80 contributors: 31 writers and 50 translators.
TSS: Will there be – gradually, if not one after another – exhibitions in all the countries featured in the book?
J-MC: I try to do my best for that. But I want to show my “Images of Europe” in the rest of the world as well. So for example, the “HUE” exhibition was held in Australia, in China, and right now is in South Korea, as a travelling exhibition organised by the Alliance Francaise in that country.
To see the whole portfolio, go to http://homo.urbanus.free.fr/portfolio/.
10. Sep 2012 at 0:00 | Zuzana Vilikovská