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MEP: Pascal Maitre


A few years ago after an exhibition in Istanbul, a journalist from Géo magazine told me about a photographer who wanted to come to Africa and follow me around in Porto-Novo, where I live. This was the first time I heard about Pascal Maitre.

We decided to meet in Benin.

From him I learned one of the most important lessons about photography: what matters isn’t the technique that makes a photo a work of art as much as a testimony, but the perspective, the engagement, and the desire to tell a story.

When I look at Pascal’s pictures, I understand that it’s his secret. He doesn’t take pictures. He sees Africa and Africans and from a man’s perspective. And it’s not just Africa, but Africas.

The Africas of war, of course. Sadly.

He travels to these conflict zones because he’s affected by what happens to us, despite the dangers and the risks he takes. But he doesn’t photograph war. Rather, he photographs a continent at war. By finding innocence, beauty and humanity in all that is cruel, ugly and inhuman, he makes a powerful condemnation our mistakes and madness.

The Africa of beliefs.

Ancient, respectable, amazing, frightening, manufactured, dangerous, in Africa more than anywhere else, deities and rites of the past mix with the pastors and scams of today.

That Africa of childhood. Africa is a continent with so many young people but nothing has been done for them, to educate them and change the course of things that governments want keep the way they are at any price.

The Africa of color, vibrating in the streets, in marketplaces, in faded bars or a room in this Somali village bathed in pink, which stands out in the yellow of the desert like forest green.

And, finally, the Africa of creativity and culture. That’s where the hope for change lies, in our ability to invent, create, recycle, renew and adapt.

When I look at Pascal’s pictures, I pass from smiles to anger, from shame to admiration. I am very grateful to him for seeing all of this, for loving us so much. Pascal Maître’s photographs look like paintings, and life.

Romuald Hazoumè
Visual Artist from Benin based in Porto-Novo.

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