Shows / Interview

 

JUNGLE JUICE IV, Group exhibition

Galerie Plateforme, Paris 2016

AFRICAN ACID IS THE FUTURESolo exhibition

Somos Art House, Berlin 2016

FRAMES OF BERLINPhotography contest exhibition

Winner of the Audience Prize

Fellini Gallery, Berlin 2017


Interview translated from a feature published in i_D Germany, 2017. 

Original feature : https://i-d.vice.com/de_de/article/interview-camille-bokhobza-fotograf-berlin

   

      Why and when did you start taking photos?

 

Like many good things, it began by chance.

In Berlin, a friend offered me an analog camera. At the time I was still studying architecture. I didn’t really know what to do with it, or how to use it, and it stayed on my shelf for quite a time. That was 8 years ago. I still have it and use it today. It’s quite broken and I have to tape it to hold the back, but I love it.

The next summer, I left for an island with my love, sleeping in nature, living outside. A friend of mine lent me another special small camera, which I also still often use. It produces diptychs. I love what came out of this first “love escape” film. An image of beauty, freedom. When I look at this film today, I think it played an important part in making me feel that we can tell stories with photography.

From then on I took more and more pictures. It became natural to always have my camera with me. Not with any special intention. It was just like this. I did hundreds of pictures, without ever thinking to show them to anyone other than my friends.

A friend of mine came to my place. He saw me in the middle of my room, the floor covered with small prints. He told me: you don’t seem to be aware of it, but I see a photographer!

 

      What brought you to Berlin ? What was your impression of the art scene ?

 

I came to Berlin because …. I learned German at school! (for real). I came for a study exchange at UdK, in architecture. I first wanted to go to Buenos Aires, got refused and got accepted in Berlin.. I thought: Hum …. Berlin? Boring..

Ahah! Surprise! I was 20 years old, had no idea of what I was going to discover. My impression of the art scene was that “art” was everywhere. I felt I had arrived in an amazing creative pool. It was a big change from the institutional high level “art” in Paris. I saw people trying things, making mistakes, experiencing. I discovered what “underground” meant I guess. I wanted to see everything, every place, I was thirsty for discovery. It seemed everyone was more or less an artist! I met a lot of interesting people, it really opened my field of vision.

 

      Do you think that leaving your home has influenced your work?

 

It didn’t only influence it, it permitted it to emerge. When I arrived in Berlin, I wasn’t taking pictures. Photography hatched in parallel with the evolution of my life. When I came back after finishing my studies in Paris, I had my camera with me. I had no intention of becoming a 'photographer'.

Without forethought, photography had simply become part of my life, like a mirror, discreet but always there.

That decision to leave Paris, where I was becoming an architect, was like taking-off, a step towards freedom. A choice for discovery, time, thinking, danger, questions. Slowly but surely photography took more and more space and time in my life. And at one point, I thought, let’s go.

 

      What inspired you most about Berlin ?

 

This sense of time and freedom. Emptiness, calm. And also bustling energy.

Having the feeling of crossing your own desert sometimes, which permits you to face and discover yourself. The sweet feeling of being how I want to be, without being looked at or judged.

Also, I am/was slightly the same age than the Berlin born in 1989. Arriving here, I had strong feeling of living with the "present"; not living in the nostalgia of the past, or fear of future.

A feeling of here and now.

Right place, right time, and everything possible. Grow, vibrate, lose yourself, but know yourself better. I'm so happy to have had the chance to evolve in a city still free from the pincers of our contemporary urban societies. I'm sad about the direction it takes now. But it seems there is no other way. Like other amazing cities before, it's slowly becoming "normal".

      

      Can you remember the last time you felt the urge to pull out your camera and capture a moment? What are moments that intrigue you to take a photo?

 

The very last, I don't remember... I remember some days ago a friend of mine with his face covered in white paint, sitting in front of the piano. My girlfriend having a bath. Someone in the underground. A bird.

There is no time with or without pictures, it's always there.

One of my cameras is small and light, I always have it with me. Here again, my pictures are done during my days, encounters and adventures. Sometimes a day passes with no shots, and the next, you don't know why or how but things come together and you shoot a lot. I always feel open.

I love details, things and people. My friends, my love, the unknown, animals and invisibles.

Except for special commissions, or when I have a precise idea for a project or series, I try to keep the spontaneous way of working that I had before showing my pictures. It's like being active and passive at the same time, to observe and sometimes help situations happen by being part of it.

           

      Humans and human interactions seem to be central for your work - how do you find your protagonists?

 

I'm simply surrounded by them! My "protagonists" are often part of my life. I love people, it's true. Since I was a little boy I’ve always been surrounded by people. Now I'm also learning to love loneliness.

I always loved taking pictures of my friends. My camera was with me most of the time, and little by little everyone forgot about it. It became very natural, and I was able to capture precious and intimate moments, without disrupting them. Analogue permits this. You feel much less intruded on. Also, as you can't look at the pictures right away, the course of life isn’t interrupted, in contrary to digital or iPhones (which I don't like much at all). Things go naturally. I live and evolve with people I love, they sometimes become characters and muses. Friendship allows that.

No barriers, no fake scenes. Life, simply.

 

      Many of your portraits seem raw, unfiltered and intimate. Your Zoe series I found especially touching. How does your relationship with the protagonists influence your work? 

 

Happy you got something from this series. The answer is very simple. Zoe is my love, for years now. The influence of my relationship with her on my work is huge.

Raw, unfiltered and intimate, just like love.

She was and is one of the main subjects I photograph. Once again, not because I want to produce pictures but because I’m touched by her beauty and seeing her in many environments or landscapes – like in the series "la vie". My relationships in general influence my shots a lot, because I want to take the people as they are. Their personalities and inherent characteristics make them unique and special. I don’t photograph them all in the same way. I adapt the way I'm doing it, to not disrupt their authenticity.

 

      I get a sense of love for the little moments of strangeness in life and the fluidness of human identity in your work - especially African Acid is the Future and Berlin Summer. Is that something you aim for?

 

Aiming, I don't know… Sense of love for it, that's for sure. You can't look for it, but you can be aware and ready to grab it when it happens. Things tend towards the homogenous in our society. But the details and signs that the world is and can be different to what we are told, are numerous. You can encounter these moments of strangeness in the environment of a party like African Acid Is the Future, within a city like Berlin. It is inspiring, and gives me hope. The "small nothings" in life are doors to the imaginary world. Happy hazards, weird situations are an antidote to monotony.

The poetry of everyday life.

 

      Speaking of African Acid: You titled it a “Musical Journey”. How can photography interact with music? What role did music play for your series?

 

In African Acid, music and photography are intimately linked, of course. In the first place it’s a musical journey, from which I construct a photographic story. I am here to grab the energies and moves from the air, to put rhythm into image. It's an amazing exercise, very demanding. Again, my priority is to not disturb the natural course of things. I don't want to bother anyone in their moments of relaxation and intimacy. Music is the bath in which everyone is enveloped.

 

      Since you are working both in urban and natural/wild environments: What are you looking for in a scene you photograph? 

 

Those two sides of my photography reflect two sides of my personality.

I was born and raised in cities. I love them, they’re full of human energy, adventures, and can be very fun. But as soon as I can, I run to the wild. I need it. Being so much in enclosed spaces, between walls, is madness. In cities, we are cut off from the horizon, sky, soil, plants and other species. I can stay sleeping outside in the elements for days; it's also inspiring for pictures. The series I did in the wild are very important to me. In ‘nature’ or in cities, it's not only esthetics that I'm looking for. I try to capture energies; I work with my feelings and instincts. That is what often leads me to take a picture.

I become aware of something happening in front or around me; then I'm a receiver, the messenger. My job is to listen, look, and be connected to what happens.

 

      What are future projects you dream of?

 

I want my photography to become a strong tool of action and "testimony". Many subjects are more and more important to me. For years I have wanted to act, to change things. But first I had to find my tool of expression. I think I’ve found it ! Even without speaking about photography, my aim is to engage more. As usual, my photography will be modeled on my life, nourished by my experiences; if I do so, then my photography will follow.  There are so many things that have to be taken care of..

I want to keep exploring and evolving in other worlds, to understand my path - and to reach people through my work.