David Lefranc, journalist, and photographer, has traveled the world and made his passion his profession. Constantly looking for highlights, he offers us the opportunity to see the world through his photographs. In an exclusive interview with Parallels and Meridians, he talks about his fascination for India, his experiences as a photojournalist, and concepts that inspire his work.
How do you plan your trips?
In an ideal world, I would be an ordinary tourist. I would go on holiday on the roads of India to photograph faces, landscapes and to immortalize the highlights of my journeys.
I am a professional, however, so for me, there are two ways to proceed. Either the magazines contact me and ask me to make photos on a specific theme, or have the idea of a project and submit it to them. If they accept, then I can plan my trip accordingly.
You have been a professional photographer for 32 years. What keeps you motivated?
For me, photography represents ‘the journey’, a way of traveling. As a photography enthusiast, I can never have enough and I will continue as long as I can.
I would go so far as to say that without my camera I am not the same person. With it, I am more daring, I venture out and let myself be guided into the spectacles and agitations of the street.
Is there a country that fascinates you more than another?
Each of the countries I visit fascinates me for many reasons.
In India, for example, I could sit for a whole day admiring the “show” of the street before me. India is phenomenal, it is extraordinary to witness the ongoing spectacle of the Indian streets. At the end of such a day, I may have taken more than 500 to 600 photographs.
I am also a fan of Japan, both for its artistic and cultural aspects and for its architecture as well. The approach of each country is different but equally interesting.
One of your favorite subjects is Children of the World. Could you expand on that?
When I was little I had a fascination with the book ‘Family of Man’ by Edward Steichen, in which there is a compilation of black and white photos on the human condition. These photographs were the subject of an art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.
Children are spontaneous, extraordinary and unpredictable. One can immediately feel the sincerity of a child when they are photographed, there is an immediate visual connection.
Women are equally fascinating too, they emanate natural elegance and incredible beauty. Often unaware of their beauty, some wonder why I want to photograph them. Without hesitation, I ask my interpreter to tell them that I photograph them because they are beautiful. There are many different reactions when I say this.
The people you photograph can sometimes be suspicious of what you are doing, so how do you approach them?
It is enough to approach them with a smile, to be courteous and above all to explain to them why I wish to photograph them. To better approach them, though, I have to be adept and know the local customs and beliefs.
The journey changes a person, how has the journey changed you?
I have a much more critical view of our society. As a humanist and traveler, I have a more global view of the world. So I see societies evolving. Compared with India in 1950, India is now more open to the outside world. I particularly support the sharing of wealth.
As a great traveler, what would you say to people reluctant to travel?
Basically, I would tell them that the best thing to do is travel to discover the world. Take time to meet local people and enjoy new cultures.
It is true that paranoia has become somewhat present in our societies after the terrible events we have experienced in recent years. People are increasingly hesitant to travel. But this remains the richest and deepest experience anyone can experience.
Do you have an anecdote to share?
Not just one, thousands!
I love the Indian sense of humor. I always travel with Rakesh, a driver with whom I am very close. We have our little habits, Rakesh often takes a coca cola and me another cold drink. My driver, and friend— has the unfortunate tendency of throwing his empty bottles out the window. I told him once I did not like this and put at his disposal a plastic bag. I said, “Give me your empty cola bottles and put them in this plastic bag.” And then on our last trip, we resumed our habits. A Kingfisher for me and a cool Sprite for my friend. On the way, Rakesh opened his window and again threw the bottle out the window. I asked him why he did this, and he replied, “Boss that was not a Coke, it was a Sprite.”