PAPS TOURE: Street Wise
PAPS TOURE is a photographer. His first camera, a Nikon D40, triggered a life-long passion for capturing unexpected moments. The Paris streets are his studio, the passersby, his models. Poetic, philosophical, fascinated by humanity, thousands of people hanging on his every word via his densely populated Facebook page, Paps Touré’s elegant enthusiasm pulls us all into his unique vision of the world.
To view more of Paps Touré’s photography, please visit:
Interview by Melissa Unger
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
My passion for photography developed progressively. I have always been attracted to images in general, films, photographs… when I was a child, I was particularly drawn to the scenes of everyday life that unfolded in front of me on the street. I have always felt that if you knew how to ‘see’, there was always a little scene worth watching on the street; scenes at once funny, fascinating or poignant. There was a time when I didn’t have a camera. I’d say to myself: “Damn, if the others had been here to see this, they would have had a good laugh.”…As time when on, in unconscious response or not, I bought a camera, ostensibly to ‘take pictures of my dogs’. And so I began to photograph people in the street, and one day, I photographed a vagabond watching the trains depart at Stalingrad station. At that moment I said to myself: “Wow, that’s a really beautiful image!” The emotion was so strong that the image disassociated itself from me, it stood alone in its power; I had trouble taking credit for it at as a photographer. Since that day, I never go out without my camera…Actually, I have titled that photograph “The Beginning”, because for me, it truly was.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PAPS TOURE?
What’s a typical day for me? Good question. I don’t plan in advance. I’m one of those people who operates on instinct…I wake up, go out, most of the time on my bike, and I let myself me guided by my mood. I cycle forward without a specific predetermined destination, I go where the wind blows and take pictures along the way. It’s a bit like hunting: I’m sharp, aware of every movement, each stirring, I look all around me, all the time…so much so that it has become a habit. Sometimes when I run into a friend in the street and we stop for a chat, they’ll often say: “Relax Paps, the photos aren’t going anywhere, concentrate, stay with me.” When I talk to people on the street, my chin is always up, a bit like a dog sniffing the air searching for scents…Me, I’m always searching for images.
BEYOND PHOTOGRAPHY, YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A WIDE VARIETY OF CREATIVE PROJECTS, WHAT DRIVES YOU?
Other than photography, my relationships stimulate me. I’m a shy and solitary guy who expresses his emotions mostly through images or writing. I write a lot and I enjoy it. I love philosophy and I enjoy asking myself and others existential questions. My only challenge is spelling, I make lots of mistakes, but it doesn’t stop me because my friends correct me when needed.
I have also created a non-profit association for the homeless, but I don’t like to promote it myself, I prefer for people to learn about it via another channel. I don’t like to talk about those types of things. I feel that it clouds the nature of my goal, I don’t to do it to take credit for ‘doing good’, I do it solely because I enjoy it and it’s important to me, and the things I enjoy are usually of a solitary nature. I am too reserved and shy to share my moments of joy with others, so again I rely on my images and texts.
THE STREET PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN MANY OF YOUR CREATIVE PROJECTS, WHY?
The street plays more than a ‘role’ in my projects, it is truly VITAL to me!!! It’s my oxygen! It’s a part of me, it’s inside me. I have lived both its good and bad sides. I have had the luxury to step away from it from time to time, but I have never deserted it. The street is my playground! It is also my home! The street trusted me. The street shaped me. It could have killed me…but my personality helped me gain the upper hand and now we are on the same ‘team’. We tamed each other, like a rider and his horse!! In all my projects, the street is present, unfolding in all it’s various forms! That’s why I chose to be a street photographer…and when I say ‘street’…I mean street in the broadest sense. Don’t jump to conclusions that I mean the inner city streets or any other clichés…Generally when one speaks of the ‘street’ on talks about the Projects, the rough streets. I’ve got plenty of friends who didn’t grow up in the Projects that are a part of the ‘street’. The street is a source of inspiration all over the world, in sports, movies, photography…I’ll stop here, I am so passionate about the street that I could go on writing about it all night.
DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR OR MUSE?
A mentor? No. I am like a stray dog that constantly changes masters. I share many moments of friendship with people, but I don’t necessarily have friends. It’s a personal choice…I observe the people around me and inspire myself in my own way.
A muse? The street.
HOW DOES CREATIVITY ENRICH YOUR LIFE?
I have noticed one thing, actually it’s a certitude: I need to see people, to exchange with them, even if its just for a day, 10 minutes, 1 hour, without necessarily seeing them again afterwards. I need that. I take advantage of the present moment. But I am artist that can only breathe freely after he has taken a good picture. My oxygen resides in my work. I don’t feel well when I am not working! I feel better when I am working and hunting on the Paris streets.
TELL US A SECRET:
I am rarely ever happy…and I like it like that.
Translated from French by M.U. 2012
Published: March 13th, 2012