Joël Tettamanti • Photographer, Cameroon

Past, Present and Future

Landscape Stories: Please tell us what are your major influences and what photographers you particularly enjoy. Besides photography what are the bodies of work, artists, books, movies that impressed you the most?
Joël Tettamanti: I had many references, influences when I was a student. Going to many art exhibitions, keeping me posted about the latest artists etc. Now, to be honest, I am more trying to take distance with the artists and photographers. I see that it’s actually really hard to be “neutral”, “clean” from any reference. I believe that the more past goes bye, that more and more I do refere my older works to the latest one. Don’t know if this makes sense?

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Uummannaq - Greenland, 2008'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Uummannaq - Greenland, 2008'

Landscape Stories: Do you do any particular research on the territory while working on your project? Do you gather specific information about what you are going to photograph?
Joël Tettamanti: The territory, the identity of a place is pretty much the central point of all the studies I make here and there. I gather places, objects that I shoot and bring back to my studio. Photography is a medium that allows me to bring back things, that are too big, or impossible to transport. I don’t gather much articles or websites or informations about a place or a region or a topic.

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Qaqortoq - Greenland, 2004'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Qaqortoq - Greenland, 2004'

Landscape Stories: How do your projects evolve since you start shooting? How important is your preparatory work…
Joël Tettamanti: I think that my work has evolved a bit since the beginning. My technique gets a bit better, the focus is maybe a bit sharper. But the concept of local studies that I fixed myself more than 13 years ago is actually still the same. My evolution is then so tiny that I don’t know if it’s readable and understandable from someone else than me.
Landscape Stories: Every place is full of meanings, memories and particular stories. In consideration of the complex relationship between East and West… What did it mean for you to photograph in Orient?
Joël Tettamanti: Photography is one of these tools that automatically tells something about the time in the sense PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE. Asia is like all the other continents a place that changes, that evolves, that is changing every minute. There is a big “quest” about Asia and photography. Don’t know if it’s a new thing in photography. People say that it’s there that the biggest changes are happening, I am not so sure that it’s stronger there than anywhere else. The planet is changing as it has always had.

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Chittagong - Bangladesh, 2012'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Chittagong - Bangladesh, 2012'

Landscape Stories: Concerning your work ‘Thang Long’ in Vietnam… How the project started?
Joël Tettamanti: I went there in for Wallpaper magazine in 2006. Hanoi Vietnam.
Text:Landscape Stories: In ‘Thang Long’ you seem to be interested in geography, in other words the landscape and its influence upon its inhabitants. Could you comment?
Joël Tettamanti: Thang Long is the name of the old city in Hanoi. I felt that it was a good title to talk about the link between the past, the present and the future. The nature has disappeared and the Landscape is the significant of the globalized world.

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'

Landscape Stories: : How did you choose the locations that you photographed in these series and what motivated you to include people in these images? What were the reactions of the people you were photographing to you when you were in Vietnam? Please explain their story. What drew you to photograph them?
Joël Tettamanti:I did this series of pictures a very long time ago, so I am not so sure to remember all the details about the people and their own stories. But to be honest, I have no particular feelings about the people that I shoot. For me they belong to the Landscape, they are there and I want to include them. I am also part of it when I am photographing. On the other hand, it’s really nice to know more, what are the problems they have to deal with, the complications, the changes they have to deal with. Politics take decisions, populations has to do something with it. Maybe I should combine my work with someone who writes in the future, to be in a more “documentary” work?

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'

Landscape Stories: How much importance do you attach to the social and political aspects of what you exhibit?
Joël Tettamanti:A lot of importance, but I also like not to be an expert in those matters. I want to remain clean and clinic with what I see and observe.

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Thang Long - Vietnam, 2007'

Landscape Stories: What has been your favorite photo-book in the last few years?
Joël Tettamanti: Good question, I can’t really remember.

© Joël Tettamanti from 'Durg - Ethiopia, 2013'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Durg - Ethiopia, 2013'
© Joël Tettamanti from 'Durg - Ethiopia, 2013'

Landscape Stories: What are you currently working on in your photography?
Joël Tettamanti: I am always facing this question. It’s very revelant of the expectations of a photographer, what we expect of him, always having a new project etc. I usually get annoyed by that question as I am so busy all the time on many projects.

Interview curated by Gianpaolo Arena