Didier BizetDidier Bizet was for many years an art director working in advertising agencies in France and overseas. In 2015, he decided to focus on photography full time. He is naturally drawn to the countries of the former Soviet Bloc “where the melancholy of time meekly submits to the camera”. Between fine art and documentary, photography is a way for him to learn about his surroundings: “It gives me a way in and sometimes answers to my own questions about different societies. It’s not only enjoyable – it’s also necessary for my life experience. The world around me is changing, being modernised and developed, always surprising me. I seek out the curiosities of our modern society in order to understand them.” Right from the outset, he embarked on a long-term project, taking him all over the sprawling transcontinental country of Russia over the course of nine journeys, in search of the melancholic side of life. His work featured in numerous magazines, and in 2018 his book Itinéraire d’une mélancolie was published by Juillet. He continued to return to Russia and Crimea, working on subjects such as the Moscow Metro where he spent six hours a day for two weeks: “The Moscow metro system is a different world; for me, it represents all the complexity of Russia’s history and encapsulates its fragility.” In 2019, he spent time in Ekaterinburg where he documented one of the largest pilgrimages in Russia during which every year between 60,000 and 100,000 pilgrims visit the grave of the last tsar, Nicholas II of Russia. This work appeared in the pages of Le Figaro Magazine. Still in the East, Didier Bizet twice visited the shores of the shrinking Aral Sea in Kazakhstan to document the – temporary – return of the water to the Small Aral Sea. This series was picked up by multiple publications, including the French, Finnish and Russian editions of GEO magazine and the German magazine Stern. Didier Bizet is a graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris and has a degree in art history. In 2020, he received a Sony Award for his much-published series Baby Boom, which was then screened at the International Festival of Photojournalism 2020 in Perpignan. That same year, he founded his publishing house Revelatœr, which now has five titles in its catalogue.
We were introduced to Didier Bizet and his work in 2022 through his report on the Order of Malta’s mobile medical unit in Lebanon.Didier Bizet, “Lebanon: healthcare takes to the road”, Humanitarian Alternatives, no. 19, March 2022, pp. 112–129, … Continue reading This time he takes us to Ghana to teach us about Nzulezu, a stilt village founded in the 14th century by refugees fleeing the wars of the old Ghana Empire (now modern-day southeast Mauritania and western Mali). Nzulezu comes from the Nzema language and means “water surface”, although some inhabitants also translate the word to mean “those who live on water”. Built in the middle of lagoons, between two almost impenetrable jungles, it has long provided an ideal protection from external attack. Today, Nzulezu has a population of about 500 people, all members of the seven families who inhabit the village. From day one, the villagers have subsisted on fishing and farming, as well as distilling a local gin. All daily activities, like school or religious services, take place on the lake. In Nzulezu, the community and nature are essential for survival in this incredible ecosystem straddling the modern world and traditional values. Despite its candidacy for inscription as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, tourism provides too little income for locals, and the water level rising during heavy rains means they are constantly having to maintain their stilt houses. Although the State absolves itself of any responsibility to preserve this historic village, it does keep a tight grip on all donations from non-governmental organisations (NGO), to such an extent that many of them are deterred from taking action in the field. Thankfully, a brilliant local Ghanaian network has provided much needed help in recent years, taking a similar approach to that of the NGO Food For All Africa by offering clothing, school supplies and food to the villagers. The difficulty in gaining secure access to food explains in large part why the school dropout rate in Ghana is so high. The village community also does its best to manage waste, which until now has been dumped in the lake. The village chief and elders contacted a company in the region and now every household has its own waste bin. Since then, two groups of volunteers, the Nzulezu Sanitation Club and the Nzulezu Community Cleaners, have been put in charge of properly disposing the village’s rubbish. Didier Bizet takes us into the heart of a Ghanaian village faced with the same questions that our entire world village is trying to answer.
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