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Human Social Art


Photo by Frank Boucher

Article by: Elena Dalibot 
Translation by: Deirdre Brophy

Franck Boucher, author-photographer, has questioned the true meaning of the French acronym “SDF”, which translates to English as “no fixed abode” and is commonly used to refer to the homeless. Along with the reality of homelessness, the use of this phrase is often accepted with indifference as part of our daily surroundings. At the International Festival of Photography in Sarcelles, Boucher met the local branch of the Paris Transeuropa network to present his work and discuss the possibility of undertaking projects with European Alternatives in the future.

 

Franck Boucher has worked with the homeless for four years in Tours, where he lives, and he credits them with his success as a photographer. He began to photograph them in a mobile studio in Tours, giving the models an “existence permit”, a symbolic document for people who often have no papers. There is a confident atmosphere in the community café “La Barque”, where these unusual photographs are exhibited. The photographs remind the subjects to continue to fight their daily struggles, regain confidence and dignity, but also to have fun. As well as the creation of existence permits, Franck Boucher has followed different aspects of homeless life in Tours: key places, daily habits, and even special occasions, such as the deposit of 27 kilos of copper coins collected by Didier to the post office.

 

Little by little, Franck Boucher’s projects have garnered the attention not only of the homeless community of Tours, the surrounding region and across the country, with one person travelling from Marseille to be photographed; but also of the media and institutions. Thanks to the prizes for his work, Bourcher has been able to buy more equipment, work in colour and to develop his activities. One project was recognized as being of public utility in 2005, another won the Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports “Youth Challenge” prize in 2005, while another was awarded the Ministry of Education’s “Take action” prize in 2006.

 

His work is a testament to the homeless. Through his work, they become their own ambassadors and tell their story, as in the “Homeless Top Models” series. Franck Boucher tackles prejudice through giving the homeless a role as “top models”, questioning whether they are really so different from the rest of us. In the “Storyboard of Life” series, the subjects are superimposed on cartoon-like backgrounds depicting with humour and tenderness the life, world and dreams of 26 homeless people “with real and poignant stories”. The models were involved in the design of the images, from the light in the drawing, to the pose and the visual style. With five years of artistic success behind him, Franck Boucher invites like-minded artists interested in the social impact of their art to create a movement for “Human Social Art”.
 

Boucher has no shortage of projects into which to channel his many ideas and seemingly limitless energy. He is currently working in Sarcelles with a class of primary school children on a project of portraits and self-portraits as part of the International Festival of Social Photography. The social reality of life in the town will be presented through the children’s eyes to festival-goers. Franck Boucher’s next big project this year will not be on photography but will have a strong human element. He is preparing to travel around the world by train and cargo ship with his son, who has a rare genetic illness and is passionate about trains. All the support, especially via Facebook, brings them one step closer to achieving their dream. In partnership with European Alternatives, Boucher will organize an exhibition of his work in the Transeuropa festival in Paris, from May 6th to 15th. For more information on the project or if you would like to contribute, write to use at paris@euroalter.com.
 

You will certainly hear more about Franck Boucher as he continues working, giving a platform of expression to voices that neven seem to be listened to.

Elena Dalibot 
European Alternatives Paris-Cluj

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