The following interview took place over two nights in two cities. Photographer, Alan Eglinton, spent both days at a fairground with a camera. Prior to this Andrew Eglinton had sent him a poem to read.
– Your poem evoked a female presence, a woman’s smell, a woman’s face, a figure
pressed against the crowd.
– When did you read the poem?
– Three months ago.
– Go on…
– What kind of smell?
– Toffee apples. Candy floss. Sickly perfume. Cigarettes. Meat.
– No. Meat.
– Is that all?
– No. Green grass and mud…sloppy mud.
– Your poem talks of a woman walking, but at the fairground I’m standing still. People are coming to me. I’m not going to them.
– What about faces?
– I think I took more photos of women, I generally do. I waited for a body (or several) to go by, revealing a person hidden behind. I stood there with the camera to my eye, watching, waiting, lowering it from time to time to check the screen.
– What about colours?
– Black. People were mostly dressed in black. Colour came from the rides and the blue sky, from different skin colours. Black skin, white skin, red skin, red because of the sun. My red skin, feeling hot round the neck.
– The rides, what about those?
– They’re not just machines, they’re attractions that people cling on to. The movement seems to come more from the noise of people than mechanical motion.
– What other sounds did you hear?
– People’s voices. “What’s that guy doing taking photos?”; “Where’s dad?”; “Let’s meet here later.” Laughter. “Was that a good photo?” Some guy assed about in front of the camera. Music.
– BOOM BOOM BOOM to keep up the energy. Mobile phones too. Different phone jingles, Beyonce and Eminem, the kind of stuff kids from the suburbs listen to.
– What was your mood like before leaving for the fairground today?
– What preparation did you make ahead of the shoot?
– Emptying memory cards, preparing myself mentally to meet the crowd, not to feel shy. If you’re feeling vulnerable it’s best not to go there. People sense it.
– How do you prepare yourself mentally?
– I say to myself if the shit hits the fan, then it just does. In other words if someone aggresses me because of the photos then just deal with it or run.
– What are the potential sources of fear when taking photos in a crowded place?
– Someone punching me in the face when i’ve got the camera in front of it. Not being able to see all around with my normal scope of vision.
– Tell me about the place you went to.
– It’s a meeting place and a crossroads in a fairground, just next to a ride called the “Boomerang”. There’s a sign that says “meeting point” or “point de rencontre” in French. There are other signs that point to “lost children”, “first aid” and “Exit”.
– Who do you remember from the crossroads?
– It’s hard to depict someone with any degree of precision…wait…I remember a girl letting out a loud sigh right in front of me, then some youngsters who jumped in front of the camera, they were dressed ‘gangster’ style. I remember a group of disabled people in wheelchairs on an outing.
– What happens at this crossroads?
– People collide.
– How do they collide?
– Sometimes saying “sorry”; a girl barged into my bag quite violently and just walked on; youngsters collide and look at each other, maybe thinking “he’s nice” or “she’s nice”; I felt a woman’s breasts in my back but didn’t look round.
– Where did you stand?
– In the same place, all the time. I only moved a few steps to let pushchairs come by.
– Imagine the people as a whole, as an entity, how would you describe them?
– Something sexual. If it’s a single body then it would have to be hermaphrodite. An hermaphrodite in a place for spending energy and money, like a mad supermarket.
– Think of a detail, tiny, precise, the first thing that appears in your mind’s eye, what is it?
– A can scraping under a wheelchair.
– What kind of can?
– An Orangina can, blue, orange and yellow.
– Think of a word somebody spoke, what can you hear?
– “Le petit Ryan” on the loud speaker for lost children.
– What can you hear beyond the crossroads?
– The Booster ride. A tower with a ring that’s propulsed upwards, with people sitting around the ring and screaming.
– How did you feel after the shoot?
– Tired. Dirty shoes. Dust. Back ache. Tense muscles. Satisfied.
– Satisfied with what?
– With the state of my clothes: a beige shirt, green trousers, dirty shoes, thinking that I looked a bit like an explorer with my satchel and camera on my shoulder and some words scribbled on my left hand.
– What did you ‘explore’?
– I explored my limits, and sometimes, those of other people too. Limits of intimidation and fear. It makes you feel part of a place doing a shoot like this. It’s violent and physical. I realised that Paris is still a stranger to me and we don’t always agree.