Interview #27: Brigitte Bourger (2022)
“Oceanic Stanzas” ／ Interview by Laura Galinier ／ Translated from French by M. Solav
Pour lire la version originale de l’entrevue en français, cliquer ici.
Brigitte Bourger is originally from Metropolitan France and has lived in French Polynesia for over 35 years. A pharmacist by profession, she now devotes all her time to photography. For the past three years, she has worked on her “Ephemeral Impressions” project, a series of photographs that shows the fragility of the Polynesian marine world. Her latest projects remain centered around photographic creation related to the marine world that surrounds her.
Here is Laura Galinier’s interview with her…
LG／When and how did you first get interested in photography, and what were the important stages of your journey?
BB／When I was very young, I became interested in photography when I saw my uncle work. His specialty was portraiture. Subsequently, I had the chance to travel to mythical places and developed a taste for landscape photography. However, taking photos does not on its own make a photographer; since I have retired, I’ve had more time to devote to this passion with as much enthusiasm, but above all, with much more rigor.
The first step has been to train and improve myself technically through internships and trainings done via the internet. I first found an interest for animal photography, but then quickly turned to minimalist photography, whose general approach corresponds well to the style I wanted to give to my photos, and this thanks to renowned photographers who inspired me a lot (Michael Kenna, Michael Levin, Jonathan Chrichtley).
Only lately have I been increasingly torn between minimalist photography, which still resonates with me, and a more abstract approach that grows more and more on me.
LG／How do you explain your attraction to the element water?
BB／I have lived in French Polynesia for over 35 years and water is part of my daily life; it seems like it could only become my main source of inspiration. I feel a very strong emotional connection when standing in front of the ocean, to this immensity that surrounds me and which leaves so much room for the imagination. Its perpetual movement, its changes of colors, intensity and light all make me want to expose it in dreamlike aspects that differ from the usual postcard clichés.
LG／You say that you are torn between minimalist photography and abstract photography. Do these two approaches have anything in common in your opinion?
BB／To me, there are fundamental differences between these two photographic currents, but they are obviously complementary. Minimalism imposes a single subject that takes all the space in the image, but the place occupied in it is itself capital. It requires a lot of rigor in the choice of subject, in the composition of the image and in its final rendering. The subject must be highlighted in such a way as to have a strong impact on the viewer.
Abstract photography is more tolerant in that the subject disappears to make room for the essential: the very material of the elements that surround us. Subject, composition and framing are therefore less important to leave room for pure visual creativity. Abstract photography is obviously much more instinctive. It can be practiced anywhere and at anytime. You just have to be very careful because the magical moments are very fleeting.
Following the approach of certain painters such as Kandinsky, Manessier, Lapicque and many others, I orient myself more and more towards the essential with the guidance of personal taste (even if the essential can be very different depending on the desired objective), and tt seems to be the common point between these two photographic currents. This progression I’ve gone through appears rather natural to me. Starting from very figurative landscape photography, my photographic language gradually narrowed down and my style became more refined to the point of often ending up with abstract forms.
LG／What are the usual stages that lead to the emergence of your photographs?
BB／First of all, I look for particular subjects, ones that correspond well to my photographic style. Most often and no matter what the chosen subject ends up being, I think about the message I want to convey through the photo. This will be my very personal take on the subject that the viewer will see. I also most often build up series of images so as to create a dialogue between the images themselves. Mixing minimalism with less real photos helps in telling the “story” as a whole.
LG／Do you think about your images prior to capturing them, or is it instead the immediacy of the situation that guides you?
BB／In general, I do some scouting prior to shooting, particularly for minimalist photography (whether by exploring on-site or using the internet). If I am in my Polynesian environment, it is easier because I can choose the ideal times (lighting, weather, time). When traveling abroad, I have to adapt to the time constraints of a given place and to be much more responsive even if the ideal conditions are not met. For abstract photography, which is much more instinctive, it mostly depends on being in the right moment.
LG／What message or emotion do you want to convey through your photography?
BB／When taking a photograph, I am obviously thinking about the message that I want to convey, but given that this isn’t journalism, I guess it could be said to be more of an emotional message. I particularly seek to convey an atmosphere of serenity and of appeasement, because we all need it at one time or another.
I also seek to convey a feeling of isolation and aloneness; I think these two feelings allow us to better build ourselves and gather more inner strength in an era where we are inundated with images and information that are hard to escape. And finally I also like that my photographs are not too obvious, yet have the ability to captivate to the viewer, who must then enter this new world and is allowed create their own story.
LG／What future projects are you working on or thinking of bringing about?
BB／Of course, I intend to keep on pursuing my path between minimalism and abstraction; it suits me well and I really enjoy it. Aerial photography, which I have only recently discovered, also promises very interesting perspectives. My very next project will be a photo report from a place called Bombay Beach, which located in California. It is a totally strange place because of the extremely polluted lake that has scared most of the population away, with so many houses having been left abandoned — the place looks absolutely devastated, but quite photogenic. I think this is going to be a great topic that I would like to deal with artistically, both in abstract and minimalist way. In any case, a challenge!
LG／If you had to pick a single photo or series in your work to represent who you are, which one would it be and why?
BB／I think this photo from the “Abyss” series defines my photographic style perfectly. It talks about water, minimalism, abstraction, tonality… all the components of photography that are particularly dear to me. It is at once a really energetic, because you can feel the force of the waves, and at the same time soothing, thanks to its play of color and its minimalist aesthetic side. It also doesn’t strike you with obviousness: “what do we see? how is it taken?” The questions it sparks give the picture its meaning.
Brigitte Bourger is originally from Metropolitan France and has lived in French Polynesia for over 35 years. A pharmacist by profession, she now devotes all her time to photography.
For the past three years, she has worked on her “Ephemeral Impressions” project, a series of photographs that shows the fragility of the Polynesian marine world.
Her latest projects remain centered around photographic creation related to the marine world that surrounds her.
Interview by Laura Galinier.
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