El Calafate, Argentina, in 2009. All photos by Adrien Chabal.
One day while cruising through Flickr, we came across a series of wild photographs chronicling various subjects (grandmothers, small boys, the Chinese army) in various settings around the world (pristine mountain tops, Indian railway stations, the Gobi Desert). They were at once intimate and expansive, giving a sense of inquisitiveness and omnipotence.
We tracked down the gridskipping photographer, a French sales exec named Adrien Chabal, and asked him to tell us about some of his favorite images. We also asked about his picture-taking process. For Chabal, photography is not always about voyeurism. Sometimes, he says, interaction allows him to peek inside a culture or a place.
Regarding the image above, Chabal took it while hiking the famous Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina: "I saw this guy standing alone, like an explorer on a lost planet, or maybe like an awkward penguin."
"I went to Bolivia three times in order to catch the Salar de Uyuni filled with water. It lasts only a few weeks, but it's the most stunning thing I've ever seen. Like walking on an infinite mirror, as far as the eyes can see."
"The Bromo Volcano is overcrowded, especially on Sundays. But it's a must as sunrise, and well-worth the climb and effort it takes to frame it."
"I remember the sacred cow moving away a second later, and the funny perspective disappeared. I just pressed the shutter, hoping to have the right settings and framing. For me, this picture epitomizes the idea of 'capturing' a moment."
"I did not feel very comfortable with my camera at that moment, staring at young people starting a dog fight in the middle of a street. They noticed me right away, and I shyly waved at them and tried to say something in Indonesian. They just carried on, smiling at me."
"I had the opportunity to spend ten days with Mongolian nomads in the middle of the desert. No cellphones, no TV, nothing but a sheet of paper that appeared to be the local news wire."
"This is a local playground in Mongolia: a scrap-heap of old bikes and engines. I was not sure I was allowed to take a picture of this child. Or take him out of this mess, and warn his parents."
"To me this is the perfect cliché: Tokyo, kimono, Shibuya. I spent a lot of time at the well-known criss-cross before noticing this guy, with his perfect outfit and his earphones. I coughed on purpose just for his gaze to meet my lens."
"Getting off the train in Moscow after a Transiberian trip makes you feel kind of weird. After four days of landscapes passing by your window, you can't help but feel like a stranger in every city. Especially in Moscow. I guess catching the street mood is a good way to get back on track."
"One year before the Olympic Games in Beijing, when the train to Lhassa launched, the Chinese government stood its ground in Tibet, a province of China. In front of the Potala — the sacred Buddhist Palace — the Chinese Army showed its strength everyday at noon."
"I'm a tourist, walking in a crowded Indian railway station, asking people if I can take pictures of them. Suddenly a train stops before me and four boys stare out, maybe thinking something like, 'we're not animals in a cage.'"
"This grandmother was trying to read my English-Mongolian dictionary."
To see more of Adrien's work, visit his Flickr photostreams (here and here), or friend him on Facebook.