Éric Bouvet, between emptiness and life

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QWhen I arrived one morning at the Pediatric Department of Necker, I attended the very first meeting between a mother leaving post-Covid care and her child. She had “been delivered” three weeks earlier by cesarean section when she was in a coma. Tears came to my eyes, what a story! “ The voice becomes less assured, a slight tremor betrays the emotion still present. And if the barrier gestures did not force you to keep your distance, you would want to put your hand on your shoulder and ask: are you okay?

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However, Éric Bouvet has seen others, for almost forty years as a photographer reporter: entered 20 years at the Gamma agency, first as a laboratory assistant, he quickly joined the team of photojournalists where his taste for the adventure takes him to all the hot spots of the planet. Becoming independent in the early 1990s, he continues to survey war zones, from the Persian Gulf to Libya to Ukraine. “I’m not armored, does he recognize, to attend summary executions, to discover mass graves, to see children die, that does not leave unscathed… But the birth of a child remains the most beautiful event. I was overwhelmed by the dedication and strength of the caregivers, their commitment to life serves admiration. “

He, it was with his wife, with whom he has been married for more than thirty years, and with his two children that on each return he was able to find balance, his family was his safeguard. Thanks to her, he never crossed what he modestly calls the black line, on the border between madness and death.

“Too much emotion puts you in a state of amazement”

“I’ve always refused to do what great photographer Don McCullin calls” smelly pictures “, photographing horror in its raw state, he explains. Too much emotion puts you in a state of amazement, I want on the contrary that my images help to reflect. Looking back, I wonder: if American soldiers were censored when they discovered the camps in 1945, their testimony today would be lacking. “

He himself has witnessed many historic events, and his photos taken during the fall of the Berlin Wall can be found in history books. Nice nod to the child whose geo-history was the favorite subject in school. One evening in July 1969, he was 8 years old, his parents woke him up to witness the first steps of man on the moon: impact of the force of the image, of the live event and of the historical fact, everything who will later make the salt of his trade.

It was also this feeling of living in a historic moment that pushed him on the roads of the Oise, in early March, in the footsteps of the coronavirus. At the announcement of the confinement, he left with his room to photograph in black and white the emblematic places of Paris, emptied of its inhabitants and its tourists. “I immediately felt that we were living in a historic moment, here and now and on a global scale, of which we had to keep a visual record. “

328 km as the crow flies, 1,200 km of local and regional meters

He also draws a portrait of his neighbors and collects their impressions of confinement, then goes on with a report on the front of the Covid-19 in six AP-HP hospitals. He completes the fifth part of this set: taking Notre-Dame de Paris as its center, he has drawn a radius of 100 km, the circumference of which he has covered: 328 km as the crow flies, 1,200 km from towns and counties in counter and ten photos on arrival.

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Again large format photos: “It requires taking time and taking a step back and allows for a real meeting with people. As a freelance photographer, I need to take another look at the news. I work for the future. “

It was after a long idle period where he had to reinvent himself that he found a second photographic breath with this camera from another age. The advent of digital and the Internet has paved the way for a new generation of photojournalists, with fierce competition. He, who was still between two planes, finds himself nailed to the ground. He questions himself and turns to a more documentary photograph: “I always look for more in life every day and less certainty. “ Passing on and sharing their experience is part of their commitment to young people: “I have confidence in this new generation, in its refusal to race for growth at the cost of destroying our environment. I hope my images will help remember and act. “

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His inspiration: Meetings and sincere words

My job is to photograph people, my inspiration is people, meetings, words that circulate before, during or after shots, dialogue with people whose opinions I do not necessarily share. Any exchange is enriching from the moment when the word is sincere. I find that living in France is an opportunity: so many cultural, geographic, social and political diversity in such a small territory is extraordinary. Even if we can blame the French for being complaining and versatile, what strikes me above all is their interest in information and their critical spirit. The French are not Panurge sheep and that’s pretty good.

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