Dimitri Jeurissen: First question … to cut to the chase … why did you make this book?
Arno Baudin: For different reasons. To begin with, I just wanted to see my photographs printed on a page and be able to share them two dimensionally because the context of an image holds as much importance as the image itself. Essentially, a book is the total sum of a series of decisions. Each decision influences the meaning of each photograph and breathes life into them in different ways. I feel like my photographs exist only partly until I go about making these series of decisions.
DJ: And why the website?
AB: The website is both a kind of database and an exploration of two types of narration. The site can be navigated either randomly or chronologically. If you surf randomly, pure coincidence pairs two or three photographs with one another, thereby creating completely new mini-stories. The choices are infinite and I am always pleasantly surprised by their different meanings and the possibilities they propose. These little accidents seem to me to be a perfect way to illustrate insights into “a life / une vie”.
I also like the idea of the name of the website “a-life.com”. The contrast between intimacy and personal versus public and impersonal is an added layer that makes the meaning stronger. The title “a life” comes from a novel by Maupassant. It’s a beautiful and tragic story about disillusionment and new beginnings.
It’s a story about a life and its progressive disappointments. I relate this to the role that photography plays through its unique point of view whereby making the banal or ordinary magic. It helps us see what we are looking at, enabling us to see the invisible and give meaning to reality by the fiction it creates. With this in mind, I have never been able to find a better definition of art than Robert Filliou’s. He said: “Art is what makes life more interesting than art”.
DJ: How do you link this “personal” work with your “professional” work as a designer or design director?
AB: For both I would say it’s a research process. On the one hand, as a designer I am looking for practical solutions as an answer to practical problematics. As a photographer, I am trying to develop personal questions through my subjective experience into universal themes. Design is translation, it’s about communicating a sense of sensitivity and minimizing as much as possible the degree of interpretation to keep a message as as effective as possible. On the other hand, photography and art in general rest on the possibility of endless interpretations. An art piece creates a room for freedom and interpretation. I find both approaches equally fascinating. One teaches me to communicate and the other forces me to forget what I know so that I am able to see. For me, one feeds the other.
DJ: As you’re personally not on Facebook or any social network (correct me if i’m wrong … ) … don’t you feel your site and the book plays the same role as of sharing “your life” or “vision on life” but just another medium?
AB: The act of sharing one’s life which is essentially what social media is about, and sharing your own perspective about what life is, seems to me to be two totally different approaches. My photographs are a pretext to share this vision as well as a study of how to communicate them formally. I don’t necessarily feel that my life is especially interesting or special. That’s not what I’m suggesting. It’s just my own personal interpretation of my personal experience. It’s not about the “what”. It’s about the “how” that interests me.
DJ: Why the absence of color? Why the absence of text?
AB: I love black and white whether it be in film or photography or even just simple text on a page. I like the false simplicity it implies and the subsequent distance it creates. Black and white also has the ability to highlight the intrinsic falseness of an image. An image illustrates the distance of the onlooker to reality and draws attention to his desire, to understand and get closer. In regards to the text indeed on the site, there are simply dates next to each photo. I guess I just like the contrast of the factual mixed with the emotional. For example, Book (Vol.1) is arranged in chronological order. The dates and the photographs are opposite to one another starting from the first page in the beginning till the end of the last page of the book. I intentionally conceived it that way so as to create a three-way dialogue in time: from the photographs, by date and by the book itself. What’s more the title itself “Vol.1” implies a series which reserves a space in time and the promise of continuity.
DJ: What makes an image “worthwhile” to be on the site or in the book?
AB: Nothing except its own value. It’s more about the emotion that it evokes. When I start the process of selecting the photographs for the book, I think about its role in the overall project and how the image preceeding or following one another relate on an aesthetic and emotional level.
DJ: What are your influences? On a formal or conceptual point of view?
AB: I’m influenced by passionate people in general, in every domain. People who have a sincere desire to share their passion despite or because of their own fragility. I’m inspired by free thinkers going from Wolfgang Tillmans to Ol Dirty Bastard…..
DJ: When do you publish Vol. 2?
AB: I’m working on it! But I’m not in a hurry… I am only an artist on Sundays.
Check out the website une-vie.com.