Alexandre Silberman · Differences & Repetitions

Feb 22, 2021

Alexandre is a French photographer who explores topics about territory in his work. His main interest is to photograph how a place determines the staging of the subjects and objects that pass through it. In his series 'Differences & Repetitions', Alexandre takes to a Paris suburb to document its present state and the rapid changes that is facing due to the works for the 2024 Olympic Games. These images reflect the problems associated to fast and mass urbanisation as well as the uncertainty of a future that will completely transform the community.

am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

AS - My name is Alexandre Silberman, I am a 37 years old French director and photographer based in Paris. After studying philosophy and communication in Lyon, my home town in my youth, I very quickly started working as a freelancer in the audiovisual industry. I divide my professional life between my commissioned work as a director and a more personal work as a photographer.


am - How did you start in photography?

AS - Both early and late. I had a loosely structured practice of photography until 2015/2016, when I began to consider this medium no longer as a mere hobby, but as a means for me to explore specific themes and aesthetics, both independently and complementary to my work as a director.

My double visit to Tokyo in 2016 made a special impression on me in this respect. There, I became aware that spontaneity and plastic beauty could be combined: the lighting of the city functioned as a real scenography in which one could capture without the need to build. The lighting was already there, and with it all kinds of dramatisation. There, I photographed the solitude of night owls. Then, in the wake of this, I made a series on the place of religion in Brasilia, which was my first exhibited work, and which therefore reinforced my idea that I was heading in the right direction.


am - What does photography mean to you?

AS - What all my series have in common is that they all deal with a territory through the way it gives and shows itself, even in its most banal aspects.

It can be constructed by a single brain (Brasilia) or not by anyone, but what interests me is to photograph how a place determines the staging of the subjects and objects that pass through it.

For 'Differences & Repetitions', I find that this notion of territory has been deepened by a temporal dimension that was not present in others. Those territories, personal or public, which have been and are no longer, or which are doomed to disappear.

For me, this is a theme that connects me to my work as a director, but which is also eminently photographic.

am - What is 'Differences & Repetitions' about?

AS - With 'Differences & Repetitions', as with 'The Great Beauty' before, I started from a concept, a philosophical idea, which I tried to treat in a photographic way.

It's a fairly simple idea: how can the unity of a fundamentally heterogeneous territory be constituted?

This is the case of Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest and most cosmopolitan department in metropolitan France, where the country's largest agricultural plains were once located, before the industrial ones. It is now a victim of its early urbanisation, with completely enclosed neighbourhoods, full of huge, squalid buildings. All this while this territory borders with the rich and celebrated Paris.

It is this proximity to the capital that has nevertheless enabled it to receive a 2 billion euro investment to carry out the major works necessary to host the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Seine-Saint-Denis has thus been built up through radical changes, and is programmed to go through more of them in the years to come.

The 'Différences & Répétitions' series thus resembles a stratigraphy of a fundamentally heterogeneous territory, and it is this heterogeneity that constitutes its identity. Here, life seems more fragile, always in danger, because the structures are crumbly, and the redevelopment projects very brutal.


am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

AS - I have a particular attraction for photographers who mix documentary themes and plastic ambitions, such as Christopher Anderson, Alec Soth or Gregory Halpern, to name but a few Magnum fringe.

More specifically, I am very touched by the work of Michael Wolf. I find his study of urbanity absolutely brilliant, both funny and incisive. With that very frontal look that Germans have. Even though we are on analog magazine, I must also say that his use of digital media is also a reference for me.

Finally, I've been following the Brazilian photographer 'Fabricio Brambatti', aka 'Urso Morto', for a few years now. He too is both a director and a photographer, and you can find his rough and oniric style in both types of work.


am - What is your favourite movie?

AS - It changes with the times, but I think Terrence Malick's 'The Thin Red Line' is the one that endures.


am - What is your favourite photo book?

AS - 'Tokyo Compression' by Michael Wolf.


am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.


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