T he city of La Rochelle and Alliance Française in Puducherry have come together to facilitate the first-ever artistic collaboration between France and India with “One City, One Person, One Place”. This project is a joint exhibition of photographs and poetry on Puducherry by French photographer Pascal Bernard and Indian writer Anupama Raju.
Anupama and Pascal spent 10 days in Puducherry identifying subjects for the photo shoot. The subjects were then asked to choose their favourite location in the city. While Pascal's task involves photographing the subjects at their preferred location, Anupama's is writing a poem on the subject the place or something striking about the encounter. The aim of the project is to bring together poetry and photography so that they complement each other.
Anupama says that her poetry would be mainly free verse, although there would be some form poetry and even a couple of haikus.
Pascal who is very pleased with the ten-day residency in Puducherry says he has taken photos of 30 subjects that includes the common man and some well-known faces.
“One day we were crossing the road and I saw this place called Café la Lune with both French and Indian flags. I immediately wanted to capture this because it reflected the essence of our project. We waited for an hour or so till the café owner arrived and he was a great subject for my photo. This is how we chose many of our subjects, by chance,” says Pascal.
Depending on Anupama's poetry, he would decide which photos he would use and how he would develop them. He plans to display three pictures of each subject — a close-up of the person, a close-up of the place and one picture with both the subject and the place. For the exhibition, Pascal has decided not to use a digital camera. Pascal develops his own photographs, and while he thinks that most of the photographs will be black and white, he says that much of the final result will depend on Anupama's poetry.
The exhibition will be held in Puducherry and in La Rochelle.
How it all began
This project was initiated by the director of Alliance Française, Fabrice Mongiet, who wanted to add a cultural twist to La Rochelle's projects with Puducherry. Initially, the plan was to bring Pascal here to set up an exhibition. Says Mongiet, “but I thought it would be better if we involved an Indian artist.”
Pascal loves Puducherry for its strange mix of cultures, French and Indian. He visited the city in 2010. “I was very excited to work with an Indian artist,” he says, “it was challenging.”
Besides working on this project, Pascal has also held an exhibition titled “India is watching us” at the Alliance Française. During the recent Kameleon festival, the two artists came together with Anupama reading her poetry at the exhibition.
The entire project will possibly take a year to complete, and is expected to be a pathway to more artistic collaborations between India and France, says Mongiet.