Chattanooga- The Green Factory.
The Green Factory is a self publication by French photographer Pierre Bessard. He travelled to Chattanooga in America to explore more of the neighbourhood the residence has created. The photobook comprises of family portraits within their homes, personal stories and architectural photography. The Green Factory is a neighbourhood which challenges the stereotype of Americans being the carbon giants, as this community lives by eco-friendly means.
Bessard regards himself as lucky to have been so welcomed by the community, trusting him to enter into their homes and photograph them. Interestingly, as I looked through the book and unfolded the portraits, the subjects seldom look into the lens, but hold a mid distant gaze as though ‘to a better future’. Having the sitters not look into the camera highlights a sense of unease for the viewer; a photographer has come into their home and arranged them in a formal manner, yet their gaze completely disregards him there. It is neither ‘natural documentary’ nor formal.
When emailing Bessard he spoke of continuity: “About your work, each storie you must have a concept and a style, it’s necessary to adapt a photographic style according to your project, for exemple, If You work on available light ( you dont take some pictures without flash and some with flash… it’s not good ).It’s my point of view, if you decide to do a book, use the same size, all in vertical or all in horizontal, just few exception for the book design, think about the design book before to start a project […] respect the distance between your subject, it’s not good if you take your picture at 1 meter and the second portrait you are at 5 meters”. Although this is poignant in the book with the uniform approach to its design, the presence of the photographer does appear to change somewhat with regards to the subject’s gaze.
For me the portraits are the poignant factor, yet, I believe that the design of the photobook having them hidden, folded within the architecture echoes how this neighbourhood is buried in America. I also believe that the portraits would not be as strong without their accompaniment of the text; this gives a sense of an individual story of the aspirations of the residents and how they define the American Dream.
The architecture, although aesthetically pleasing does not hugely indicate much more than what the place looks like, just from striking angles: there aren’t any full buildings. Although I don’t think that this takes away the impact at all, as this lies with the strength of the portraiture, I think maybe for the viewer it may be nice to see a map or some more geographical context with the image.