Alex Majoli has been a member of the legendary photo cooperative Magnum Photos for well over a decade. During that time, he has been so many places, including the conflict zones of Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza and the streets of Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab Spring. He has also written several books, such as “Leros,” an examination of a psychiatric hospital on the Greek island of Leros; “Congo,” a collaborative work with fellow photographer Paolo Pellegrin about the African nation; and “Libera Me,” an interpretive book inspired by Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” in which Majoli meditates on the notion that we are all “actors of life." Majoli’s newest work continues to look at the idea that life is theatrical, but on a much larger scale. This work is on display at Le Bal in Paris until April 28. The work is also published in book form by Le Bal and Mack.
For eight years, Majoli traveled the world examining life’s theatricality. As curator David Campany says in the introduction to the book, Majoli was on a mission to show “a sense that we are all actors attempting, failing and resisting the playing of parts that history and circumstance demand; and a sense that we are all interconnected. Somehow." For this, Majoli photographed a variety of events, including political demonstrations, humanitarian emergencies and just everyday moments. But Majoli did not just show up to these various events and transform into an invisible witness to whatever was taking place in front of him. On the contrary, he took pains to make sure that his presence was noted by the people he was photographing. Again, Campany’s words give us more insight into the process:
Majoli’s photographs result from his own performance. Entering a situation, he and his assistants slowly go about setting up a camera and lights. This activity is a kind of spectacle in itself, observed by those who may eventually be photographed. Majoli begins to shoot, offering no direction to people who happen to be in their own lives before his camera. This might last 20 minutes, or even an hour or more. Sometimes the people adjust their actions in anticipation of an image to come, refining their gestures in self-consciousness. Sometimes they are too preoccupied with the intensity of their own lives to even notice. Either way, the representation of drama and the drama of representation become one.
The resulting images from Majoli’s efforts are epic tableaus depicting humankind. Here is a look at some of those images from “Scene” (2019) by Alex Majoli published by Mack.
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