A traveller of West Africa, photographer Jean-Claude Moschetti is known for his combination of mythology, ritual and beauty. With these elements, he creates works that transcend the norm, bringing to life hidden worlds all around us.
His latest exhibition, Parallel Worlds is on display until the end of December 2016 at the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Seattle, USA. His pictures are part of larger projects called Magic on Earth and Le deuxieme monde. With his work, he explores the supernatural or the magic in everyday life.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
To be honest, I do not know what the word artist means. I try to look deeper, that's all. I try to make visible what is not. I'm interested in what is out of scope in the atmosphere.
Why the interest in the supernatural?
Speaking about my work, It would be better to use the word magic rather than supernatural, even If I use both of them. Firstly, I am interested in West Africa, the supernatural, the magic is linked to this land. In Benin especially, daily life is surrounded by a rich pantheon, all these gods are a kind of super heroes. It brings me back to childhood. But at the same time, there is a deep vision of life on Earth. The ancestors still live with us on Earth and help us. Nature is a force to be respected. It's quite different to ghost stories in Scottish castles.
Describe your creative process?
My last work begins with the voodoo divinities, the witchcraft stories and the popular beliefs that I try to turn into pictures. I want merge fiction and documentary. I wish to blur the lines between reality, imagination and spirituality, to inspire doubt in our minds – what we see is not always what we believe it to be.
What are some of the techniques you used in the making of the series?
I like triptychs and diptychs. These techniques allow me to deconstruct the space and to build it again in a new more poetic way. On the masks and the characters, each one takes place in this space, opening up a crossing way from a world to another one. That’s a way to create a fourth dimension, to reveal the supernatural essence of the character.
What are some of the challenges you face as a photographer?
I do not work with actors, but with people who are invested in traditional cults. First, I have to meet them and negotiate for their cooperation. I must respect their beliefs and prohibitions. It takes a lot of patience, time and energy.
Do you think that by creating works that look at the supernatural, you inadvertently perpetuate the stereotype that Africa is a land of superstitious people?
Africa is a complex land, mixing modern and ancestral epochs. I am French and most of my fellow citizen are Catholics. For Catholics, there is a man who has walked on water and who came back to life. It is no less strange than a god of the thunder who punishes thieves. I would rather convey the idea that Africa is a land with a great cultural richness. A French writer, Paul Valery wrote, “What would we be without the help of that which does not exist”. We need magic, especially when and where life is hard.