AMMAN — It was while sitting in an overcrowded train on his way back to Paris, with cold winter rain pouring outside that French photographer Thierry Bouët envisioned his next project.
“All I could dream of was being completely alone in a desert and warm place,” he told The Jordan Times.
His next stop was Jordan.
Bouët latest photography series entitled “I’m here,” which was presented at the official opening of the third Image Festival, shows him in the Kingdom’s wide open spaces.
“I had been to Jordan for the first Image Festival two years ago and had been longing to return,” Bouët said. “Jordan ranks among my three favourite countries along with Norway and Cuba.”
His infatuation with the Kingdom is told through his pictures, which he shot throughout the country during a recent two-week tour.
“I captured the landscapes of Wadi Rum, Irbid, Petra and the Dead Sea, but I wanted to humanise the pictures so I added myself in every shot,” Bouët said.
“It is important to be present in your artwork and make your personality resonate through it like a signature.”
To insert himself in the pictures, Bouët used a specific method with the help of French photographer Carl Diner.
“I would select the location and ask Carl to walk around until I would find the perfect spot, ask him to mark it, set the frame and go stand there myself for him to take the picture,” Bouët explained.
With a career as a photographer spanning several fields, from fashion to politics, Bouët has seldom been alone.
“By picturing myself in these huge landscapes I could add three dimensions: scale, a part of me and loneliness,” the photographer said.
“The festival’s theme inspired me and I wanted to experience this teenage fantasy of complete isolation,” Bouët said, noting that even if the experience had been intellectually enriching, isolation is not something he would be longing for anymore.
This year’s Image Festival focuses on the theme of “Macro & Me”, with some 15 photography exhibitions around Amman showcasing the works of 25 Jordanian and French photographers.
“A bedouin told me he once met a young boy walking alone and warned him that solitude will only bring him the devil’s company; he invited him to join his tribe’s tent,” Bouët recalled.
“I can now understand what he meant and I find isolation is only appealing within the frame of a photo shoot,” he said.
“I spoke to bedouins during my trip and asked them how they coped with the silence and loneliness, something they admitted to be hard at times, when the storm of their thoughts would not die away,” the photographer said.
His pictures are on display at the Institut Français in the capital’s Jabal Luweibdeh neighbourhood until March 30, as part of the third edition of the month-long Image Festival, which is organised by the institute and Darat Al Tasweer in cooperation with the Greater Amman Municipality.
The festival revolves around concepts of size, distance, power and the way humans relate to the world.
“‘Macro & Me’ relates to how individuals position themselves in the world, how they relate to their city, their environment, beliefs from the most infinitesimal to the biggest, from micro crabs to war and globalisation,” Rachel Bizien, cultural manager at the Institut Français, told The Jordan Times.
“For the first time this year, we have the chance to collaborate with Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie, which has played a key role in promoting photography in France for the past 40 years,“ Bizien said, adding that “the Institut Français tries to promote exchanges between France and Jordan in all disciplines”.
Darat Al Tasweer founder Linda Al Khoury selected the Jordanian photographers who are participating in the festival, some of whom will also get a chance to present their work at Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie.
The French festival’s art director, Claudine Maugendre, will come to Amman to screen Jordanian participants’ portfolios and select some of them to participate in the renowned summer festival in France.
The Image Festival concludes with a “Night of the Year” event, inspired by Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie, with slide shows of photos displayed on 10 large screens scattered along Rainbow Street in the capital’s Jabal Amman area.
“These short movies will compile the pictures of the most striking events of 2012 through the eyes of journalists and independent photographers in Jordan,” Bizien noted, adding that renowned French photographer Julien Mignot will support with the editing.
The “Night of the Year” will start at dusk and last until the night of March 29.