…even when life is tough for them
By Prisca Sam-Duru
What many people do not know about the Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director of Lafarge Africa Plc, Mr. Michel Puchercos, is the artistic side of his life. Puchercos’ time in two African countries –Nigeria and Kenya, afforded him the opportunity to put his photography instincts to action by capturing the colours and emotions that bring to life the essence of Africa as well as emotions of the people he photographed. Interestingly, these people’s emotions range from joy to bliss but never melancholy or despondency.
Those special moments in Nigeria and Kenya resulted in Carnet De Voyage, meaning ‘Traveler’s Notebook’ or better still, Travelogue, an exhibition of 42 photographs held between 18th and 20th May, 2018 at the Omenka Art Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. Proceeds from the exhibition were donated to Casa Alba, a charity organisation that caters for young girls based in Onitsha, Anambra State.
Fascinating is the fact that none of the photographs is photo-shopped or pre-arranged. “I took the photographs even without the people knowing that I was taking their photos. I just loved their lifestyle and I’m so much interested in the cultures of Nigeria,” the Frenchman explained with excitement.
“These are just simple shots depicting emotions and beauty. They are about things and people the locals are so used to that they don’t see any more. He said expression of joy on people’s faces remained the biggest attraction for his photography irrespective of the beauty of landscape or seascape, adding that photographs without human figures that light up people’s hearts are of less value. “In Nigeria, I tend to capture joy. And if I compare human faces in Paris, France, with what I see in Lagos, Nigeria, in spite of the hardship, they are faces of joy, energy and creativity. In fact, a smiling face motivates me for the whole day and it is a big boost for me. It is a gift nature gave me to capture some of these people’s emotions and energy. I don’t want to capture or show suffering,” he said.
“Look at the little boy in this photograph, stands beside a weather-beaten canoe in a beach. He looks so thoughtful, yet so young. What I like is the way he is standing. He looks so small beside the canoe. What can he be thinking about? What is he dreaming about? Maybe, one second later, he’ll be looking at a crab or at something else,” he explained.
The photograph of a Kenyan boy in a loin cloth titled: The Shepherd Boy, is amazing. The boy, who is from the semi-nomadic pastoralist Samburu sub-tribe, is carrying a baby camel, running with it to safety. A smile on the boy’s face depicts nothing but success and fulfillment.
On seeing the photograph of a young girl titled: Joy, taken in Jos in 2017, viewers impulsively burst into smiles along with the girl. The young girl is full of hearty smiles regardless of whatever she is facing in this part of the clime. “I’m fascinated by the smile of Nigerian people,” Puchercos said. “They smile even when life is tough for them. This is a lesson of life. I’ve travelled to other countries and even in my own country where things are better, you don’t see such smiles on people’s faces.”