PW: Your photographic career began in photojournalism, before turning to a more conceptual practice with well-recognised works such as The Afronauts and This is What Hatred Did. Your work questions the truth in photography and how we understand the relationship between photography and reality. This way of working is a real departure from your photojournalistic background. What lead to this change in approach?
CM: At some point, when working as a photojournalist, I realized that the impact of my images was not enough. I stopped believing in raising awareness by just pointing at the problem, and photojournalism is very much about that. I wanted to try to open up the debate and see if this approach could help find a solution to a certain problem. Most of the time, straight documentary photography is about imposing an opinion (that comes from mass media’s agenda) and the audience has very little to add to it, and the dimension of the problem makes it impossible to react. The audience is then limited to be a spectator when we are all actually part of the problem.
The language employed in doing the chronicle of the world is for me, a bit outdated, and the reaction is no longer the same. We are no longer impressed by the document itself and some context needs to be provided.
Also in photojournalism, there is very little space for the photographer’s opinion, despite the fact,he is the only one, most of the time, in the field, experiencing and interacting with the subject. I guess I just wanted to include my opinion and my vision of things in the way I try to explain the world.
PW: We see a variety of works with a mixture of subject matter, from abandoned space missions to the re-imaginings of the senders of spam emails. How do you decide on your next series? What kind of research goes into this process?
CM: I wouldn’t call it “research” because it is not like I sit and try to come up with an idea and start looking for references and information about it. I just keep my eyes open, save all the news, facts, small details, conversations, etc that I am exposed to and that I would love to understand better. Sometimes I find interesting subjects on the web, sometimes in movies, on TV, on a travel brochure, speaking with a taxi driver. I am just a curious person and try to understand the world I live in with genuine information that can satisfy me. I am very suspicious of the mainstream but at the same time, it is my biggest source of inspiration because it’s where I find the most subjects that are under-explained or incomplete.
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