A sensitive photography dedicated to people
“I kept noticing that the photographs I was taking today of these people deprived of adequate housing could have been taken 100 years ago”.
Sébastien Godefroy is a photographer. His shots speak about human being, intimacy and relationships. His natural and luminous portraits tell the story of life at work at a specific moment. From 2016 to 2018, he put his talent at the service of poor housing, a still very accurate issue in France. For several months, he travelled the country, going from home to home, following young people to tell the story of this housing crisis and how it affects those who are faced with it. Through his picture reports, a frank and sensitive story emerges, exposing the reality of poor housing in France. At the same time, he follows the world’s diving elite. Between fascination and curiosity, he has been able to catch the demand, the concentration but also the doubt and the routine of fear, the amazing subtraction of the top athletes. Each report seems to underlie a desire: to change the way society looks at women and men, a theme.
He recently agreed to answer our questions and we are thrilled!
Your work is impressive in the way it manages to reveal humanity at its most intimate state. How do you achieve to convey this sincerity of emotions in contexts that are sometimes so different and difficult?
I have been working in the field of social photography for over 25 years. I always try to find the right distance between my subject and myself. I am not talking here about a physical distance, but a balanced relationship with the other. The more time I spend, the more I realize that photography, as I like to practice it, is more an art of listening than of looking.
How do you choose the themes you will work on?
It is always curiosity that pushes me to go and meet others. For my social reporting, there is also the desire to document an era beyond this curiosity. Coming from a modest background, I personally try to question the mechanisms that govern the IN and OUT of our consumer society.
© Sébastien Godefroy
When and why did you decide to travel and document poor housing in France?
It all began with the desire to hit de road and capture an image of France. I was also willing to take on a new form of photography and try to forget for a moment my instincts by going back to more traditional documentary photography. I wanted to take the time to really meet and listen those who suffer.
To do so, during the month of July 2016, I rode my bike across France. Using a rudimentary camera, an object from another era, I kept noticing that the photographs I was taking today of these people deprived of adequate housing could sadly have been taken 100 years ago.
How did you experience this human adventure?
I thought I was well seasoned on poor housing issues, but adventure impressed me twice. On the first hand, I could notice that the poor housing issue was more massive and larger than I imagined. On the other hand, for the first time in my career, I could measure endurance capacity of people I crossed path with, and I was able to salute their fight.
© Sébastien Godefroy
In parallel, you were following the world’s diving elite. How did these two subjects coexist in your work approach and in your daily life?
First, I contacted the France diving team as I was preparing a movie as a D.O.P about professional diving. As I am no sport photograph, I quickly stop thinking about the feat that represented a 10-meter jump and started focusing on the waiting times before the plunge. Those moments took me back to my own child fears when I had to jump into the water in front of all the class. This loneliness face to the challenge, I have seen it by these divers as well as in these families facing difficulties of decent housing search.
What difficulties and/or surprises have you encountered during your reports?
What can be a difficulty for me is sometimes that a people steady reserve to open themselves during our shooting. On the other side, I remain surprised by their endurance toward what seems to be a mountain of difficulties for me. I am astonished by their ability to bypass those obstacles and to live despite all what is going bad.
Do you have other projects in progress or to come?
I have several projects in progress.
What I know is that today I want to give more and more place to people by including them, not only as a model for my pictures, but also to try and have them taking part into the creative process. In 2018, I took part in the collective exhibition Habitarium à la Condition Publique (Roubaix) and I introduced “the picture is nothing” video piece of art. It was a research work about love and poor housing. The featured video was a real collective work: a slideshow of my photographs, commented by the undocumented couple I had followed for more than 6 months in their daily lives.
Thank you for your answers Sébastien!
© Sébastien Godefroy