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Surfing: Portraits and Street Scenes

In his first monograph La Vie des Autres, photographer Fabien Voileau focuses on surfing and daily life in megacities.

© Fabien Voileau

A few hours after he landed in Australia in early 2017, photographer Fabien Voileau met up with Wispy, a local freesurfing legend. Voileau had contacted him beforehand to make his first images in the water. At the end of the session, he had a brainwave. “I thought it would be great to push this kind of moment further, encounters, cravings.” Fabien Voileau drew up a list of people who inspired him, in and out of the water, but also a list of cities he dreamed of visiting. “The idea of presenting this juxtaposition of contexts, oceans and megalopolises, came naturally. I’ve been nourished by it all my life, so as a first publishing project, it couldn’t come more from the heart.”

Voileau’s first monograph, entitled La vie des autres [The Lives of Others], was financed through crowdfunding launched on Kiss Kiss Bank Bank. It features over eighty images, alternating between surfing photographs, portraits, and street scenes. “For surfing, a lot of the images come from Australia, because I went there a lot and stayed for long stretches of time (I am a New Zealand resident, so it’s geographically close). But there are also images from mythical spots like La Gravière in Hossegor, Cloud Break in Fiji, Teahupoo in Tahiti, and Nias in Sumatra. For the street photography part, it’s mostly places I’ve been to several times and know quite well, like Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Tel Aviv.”

© Fabien Voileau
© Fabien Voileau

Inspired by American street photographers (Mark Cohen, Garry Winogrand, Helen Lewitt, Fred Herzog) but also by more intimist artists (Christopher Anderson, Jack Davison, Jamie Hawkesworth), Fabien Voileau did his first book with the idea of “bringing together things that have nothing to do with one another… These synergies of opposites are also a reflection of who I am and my process.” The photographer also hopes to get people who know nothing about surfing to connect with his images, and vice versa. “I’ve been close to the ocean ever since I was a kid, it’s part of my life. It’s true that I’ve been surfing a lot less since I started taking images of people engaged in this sport. It’s one or the other, a hyper binary thing, either I surf and do nothing else, or I take pictures and nothing else.”

By Sabyl Ghoussoub

Born in Paris in 1988 into a Lebanese family, Sabyl Ghoussoub is a writer, columnist and curator. His second novel, Beyrouth entre parenthèses [Beirut in Parentheses] was released by Antilope editions in August 2020.

Fabien Voileau, La vie des autres, Self-published, 144pp, €45.

© Fabien Voileau
© Fabien Voileau

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