To be a Woman in the East

To be a Woman in the East

“To be a Woman in the East”: it seems more than a little pretentious to hope in just a few pictures to present such a vast theme. It is therefore not to an exhaustive presentation of the theme that I invite you, and still less to an all-encompassing journey through the innumerable regions of Asia; rather, I invite you to look upon a few portraits which—I hope—will speak to you and behind which you will glimpse something of the lives of these women in the lands that lie to the east of Europe.

The societies of the East and of the Far East in particular are at present experiencing rapid transformations. The appearance of modern comforts in households in remote regions—electricity, for example, and, following quickly behind, television—is modifying the way of life of populations which have until now been isolated. Thus one day will disappear, for example, the costumes of the Hmong, the Yao, the Akha, and the ladakhi women, in favor perhaps of western-style blue jeans. The female condition will doubtlessly see changes that are even more profound. Here the photographer humbly desires to suspend the flight of time to grant occasion to the viewer for the flight of the reflection.

From the Middle East to the Far East, the 30 photographs on exhibit were taken during the course of my excursions in Asia between 1997 and 2007. They represent only a part of a larger collection which is to be exhibited in the future.

These photos are all chance images. Something struck or attracted me, overwhelmed or seduced me, and, always having my camera within reach, I immediately (I would almost like to say “instinctively”) snapped the shot. These photos were not therefore taken initially with a precise goal in mind. The project which culminated in this exhibition was born much later out of the selection and juxtaposition of images. From this juxtaposition a meaning is born.

For me the first impression of a scene which seduces me and which I therefore photograph is enriched thereafter simply by the knowledge and imagination of the viewer. It is further modified when it is juxtaposed with other images. And so, in short, the more one looks, the more one sees.

All of these photographs are captured images. They were neither directed nor posed. In this they don’t lie. They represent small spaces of time in the life of Asian women, in all the diversity of this immense continent. Sometimes by a single detail, these images tell us something of the lives of these women, of their condition, their joie de vivre, their suffering or their secrets.

These are not stolen images. All of these women saw me approach to photograph them and did not turn away. The lenses used often involve a certain proximity. And anyway, I don’t like to hide to take a picture.

Few of these brief encounters led to a long conversation. Many were limited to the exchange of a few words, a sign or a smile.