“To take a photo just for taking a photo is pointless. The photographer is like a storyteller who helps the other to open the doors of their consciousness. We could call it a humanistic photography…”
— Reza, BOP Retrospective 2005-2010
Late in 2008 I was approached by a mysterious Frenchman I had recently made the acquaintance of while living in Tokyo, to have an guest exhibition on the BOP website. I had no idea what this actually meant, nor how serious the members of this photographic collective were. Did I need to do something in particular, make prints, eat stinky cheese or dance a jig? I was assured that I merely needed to provide a certain number of digital images, which is to say images shot with film and then digitized by a scanner so as to be uploadable to the pop format of the day–ze internet as the French say–as well as write a short artist’s statement on the images themselves. Any images would do, I was told, but I got the distinct feeling that a coherent set of connected images was to be expected. The arch of his eyebrow strongly suggested that in no way should I embarrass my newfound French friend in front of his collective compatriots, s’il te plait.
Bon, but wait, I asked myself, what is BOP? Some kind of nostalgic riff on Beatnik-era Jazz? Or a bunch of Pop Art collector-geeks who eat snails and sip wine with their little fingers in the air? Checking out their website, I quickly found out that BOP (Association Bricolages Ondulatoires et Particulaires) is a seven man collective based in France “whose goal is to promote film photography.”
I knew the word Bricolage loosely translates to “DIY” from an ex-girlfriend who was into esoteric Euro-punk and got pissed whenever I opened the door for her. I smashed my fist into my desk as I read more, “This space is very limited and it is hard to get a BOP exhibition. There are many criteria amongst which coherency is the most important in the BOP philosophy.” More than knowing that I needed to get busy, get an idea, get shooting, I realized I had the unimpeachable gut feeling that I had to go out and shoot. And now I knew what to shoot. So I grabbed my cameras, a few boxes of film and hopped a freighter to Hong Kong.
It wasn’t until May of 2009 that the BOP exhibition came to fruition. I culled a large cross-section of imagery from all of the then current Skylines Projects, including selections from Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Taipei, as well as Hong Kong. I was starting to see the light at the beginning of the tunnel. Not only did I have a massive project underway, I had several individual series of projects within the larger scope of the main project, which I entitled Skylines. The Skylines Hong Kong Project has been exhibited in Tokyo and the Skylines Tokyo Project will soon be exhibited in Hong Kong.Fast forward to 2011 and it was with great pleasure that I was able to meet up with the Frenchman once again, this time in California. As we sat at a local vinyard in the Sonoma countryside nibbling on cheese and a bit of local wine, he handed me a book. Before getting a good look at it I knew what it was. I thumbed through the smooth matte pages snatching glimpses of selections of exhibitions from all seven BOP members. I neared the back and saw a section entitled, Guest Members Retrospective, with an early description of the Skylines project and the Hong Kong Burning opposite. We clinked glasses, “Santé!”
I went back to the front and saw that Reza, the National Geographic Photographer, wrote the Preface to the BOP Retrospective 2005-2010:
“I was fourteen years old when my father offered me my first camera. Confined in the bathroom of our family home, I familiarized myself with the beauty of the revealed image. The combination of chemicals was recomposing the prism of my eyes and printing fleeting moments on paper. I discovered the power of photography. The black box became my best ally for my whistleblower desire, my companion in my quest of the Other. It never left me except when I became inprisoned for having stuck my photos on the walls of the Tehran University to expose the Shah’s Regime abuses. I spent three years locked in a cell, tortured, but this experience didn’t break me, never damaged my certainty that what I was doing was right.”When the Islamic Revolution hit Iran in 1979, I was there, to tell stories of a New Era, a new country with new rules. I wanted to show to the rest of the world how dangerous humankind could be for itself. Later, because of that, I had to leave my land, exiled to other latitudes to continue my crusade for a better world. For thirty years, I’ve been in many battlefields, I met people on every continent but I also proved that my gaze upon the world was a way to understand it. The impact of a photo is reduced to nothing if there is no intention behind. It has to call for reaction, to provoke thought, to be more than a picture printed on a support. The photographer is an external element who must share and experience other people’s worlds…To take a photo just for taking a photo is pointless. The photographer is like a storyteller who helps the other to open the doors of their consciousness. We could call it a humanistic photography…I understand why the photographers of BOP decided to create their partnership around these values…The priority is given to the quality and not the quantity.
“An old Persian poet from the 13th century, Saadi Shirazi wrote a poem which became the motive of the United nations. I also use it for my foundation Aina“:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is affected with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
“Everyone can have an impact on the human community, everyone can share what makes his difference. The reporters have a mission, one of survival that includes taking time with patience, waiting in the shadow for the perfect light, the moment which will illuminate the scene, humanity revealed. BOP is more than its principle ‘Do It Yourself’, it’s seven men for seven gazes. They offer us the possibility to cross lines and borders, to enter a philosophy of life that could be ours, they offer us the world.”
Thanks Reza and thank you members of BOP. Keep spreading the light.