Travels with a lens

Photographing cities from flyovers,Chantal Stoman comments on culture and unity

Published:March 15, 2013 3:07 am

Nearly a year ago,French photographer Chantal Stoman visited Mumbai for one of the many legs of her most recent series of work,“Lost Highway”. As she had done in Tokyo,Sao Paulo,Cairo and Hong Kong,she travelled around the city,photographing life from atop many of the city’s flyovers. Conference rooms within large office buildings with meetings in progress,fancy,multistorey malls and decrepit buildings that are in stark contrast to these are some of the things her lens captured.

Her documentation of these cities began in Tokyo in 2008,with the first part of the project being exhibited on the walls of a subway station in Paris. Then,she travelled to the other cities,trying to find a link between them. “I began the project in Tokyo,but then I wanted to create a link between all the cities that have so many flyovers,” says Stoman. “I chose cities that have a very different culture and way of life,but I tried to show that in a way they are similar in their differences,” she says.

The completed project was shown in Paris last year,and is currently on display in Mumbai at Studio X,Fort,as part of the Indo-French festival Bonjour India 2013. Following India,the show will travel to Brazil.

Those familiar with the name Chantal Stoman might perhaps recognise her as a fashion photographer. She took up the profession in 1996,and until a 2005 exhibit in Tokyo titled “A Woman’s Obsession” that spoke of the relationship between Japanese women and fashion,the 45-year-old photographer only did projects concerned with fashion. Then,she decided she needed a change. “After about 10 years as a fashion photographer,I began to find that something was missing in my photos,” she says,“Beauty wasn’t enough; I needed to find another way to express more intense things.” Her trip to Japan in 2005 followed,where she was intrigued by the women’s obsession with luxury brands. “This led to a project called ‘A Woman’s Obsession’,and this observation was the end of my story with fashion,” she says.

“Lost Highway” followed,and with this,Stoman appears to have moved on to documenting society while commenting on unity. “I want ‘Lost Highway’ to be understood as if it’s just one city,with windows from Mumbai next to windows from Sao Paulo and Cairo,” she says,“At night and at home,all the people are all the same — there are no more cultural differences.”

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