Tell us a little about yourself. Why Africa?
Photography is my means of expression, it’s also my job. I look more than I speak and my pictures talk for me. Since I was young I have been attracted by Africa. I don’t know why, there is no explanation, it’s a mystery. Maybe a Juju priest put a spell on me and called me in secret to Africa, who knows?
I am French, but I studied in Brussels where I spent a lot of time walking the streets, taking pictures. From time to time I’d stop in front of one of the many tribal art galleries in town to see new forms and ‘strange objects’—that’s probably when my fascination with African art was born.
How did you discover traditional African art and masquerades?
I was around thirty when I first visited Africa, Benin being my first destination. I shot a story about an afro-Christian church, it was a photo-journalistic report not a personal artistic work. At the same time I began to photograph voodoo ceremonies for my own pleasure. In Benin, voodoo temples are everywhere—it’s not a hidden world.
I never stopped visiting West Africa since that first trip. I made many more trips to Benin, capturing witchcraft stories such as tales of humans changing into animals and lightning punishing robbers. I have learnt to see the ocean as the home of maritime deities, and forests as shelter for peculiar creatures. I discovered the huge variety of African traditional societies and the richness of their artistic expression.
Tell us about your series of work ‘Magic on Earth’; what was the inspiration behind it?
‘Magic on Earth’ is a long-term project, still ongoing, exploring the masquerades of West Africa, an endless and fascinating subject. My goal is to not only gather beautiful pictures of masks and disguised people, but I also try to go further, to reveal the invisible world surrounding them, to capture the supernatural mood.