(Words and Photos by Pierre Belhassen)
I’m Pierre Belhassen. I started photography 10 years ago. After studying cinema, I was given a camera. I wanted to discover New York City. It became a revelation in my life. I realized that there are endless possibilities and different ways to reinvent reality. For me, there was no doubt. I felt this inner calling which gave sense to everything.
I try to use my camera as an asset to myself and not to stress others. I have always used film. When I began it was essentially black and white. I was loving its transformative power and I felt it could be easily intellectualized. Then, I stopped photography for a few years. I went back to it in 2013. I wanted a new start new and try color. It was like another language and I felt new possibilities. I was intrigued by how painters use it. Now I use Kodak Portra 160 and 400 and a Leica M7. I also noticed photographic work of Saul Leiter, Werner Herzog, Harry Gruyaert, and Alex Webb. I was captivated by their ability to create powerful pictures. Through them, I found out that inspiration can be everywhere and I try find to it through photobooks, novels, music, and in paintings.
I always take my work outside. When I’m walking through the streets, I use photography to create connections between forms, ideas, and people. To me it’s more about feeling than seeing. I do not seek to control the real, the streets, and all public spaces. For me, they are a great field of expression. I like to see something surprising, believing in the situation, and anticipating the action. I try to be attentive in my process of photographing. Being in the moment is a physical experience and I try to be present in the world, here and now, to capture an idea and a form escaped from the reality. Instead of sinking in fear I use my camera to connect with people, even if I’m not necessarily speaking with them. I believe in the body language and I treat the camera as a part of my body. There is also the light which creates contrasts and colors that sublimate the ordinary. It carries with it its own mysteries and guides me along the way.
Right now, I’m working on two projects which takes place in two beautiful cities: Istanbul and Marseille. Both are different in many ways but share a strong identity. An important mixture of cultures and traditions. I would like to build a bridge between the two cities, through the mediterranean colors. The divide through borders is really strong there both physically and socially. It is really meaningful for me because the sense of my whole life is about borders. I try to develop this idea through a photo book that I would like to publish in a few years.
If you were to ask me for an advice, my answer would be simple: walk. Walk a lot and get lost, then you’ll start to see the small things. Just keep believing it. At this point images will come to you, all you need to do is to be prepared to see it. Photography is not a sport, never force yourself to go out making pictures, let it come. Do not conform your work to a preconceived form. The real liberty is there, find what you really love and do it again and again. You’ll never get weary.
There is a real and unique pleasure at looking at things, make it something sacred.