© Cedric Roux

We are delighted to introduce Cedric Roux, a distinguished artist participating in the 4th edition of Les Rencontres de la Photographie de Marrakech. Renowned for his captivating street photography, Cedric Roux has become a celebrated figure in the world of contemporary photography. As an ambassador for Leica, his work has garnered international acclaim for its compelling narratives and distinctive style.

Cedric Roux recently unveiled his latest book, "BEFORE REBIRTH" published by EDITIONS ODYSSÉE.

Today, Cedric Roux joins us to delve deeper into the inspiration behind "BEFORE REBIRTH" and share insights into his creative process. We are honored to have him here with us, and we eagerly anticipate the enlightening conversation that lies ahead.

© Cedric Roux

What were the most striking aspects for you during your first encounter with the city of Wilson, North Carolina, that inspired you to create the book "Before Rebirth"?

The 1st thing that struck me was the striking contrast between the optimistic feeling that the inhabitants have towards their city and the real state of the city.
That's what inspired the title and the focus of my narrative. Yes, the city is being reborn, but from an outsider's point of view, we're only at the beginning.

How did you adapt your photographic style to capture the essence of Wilson, a city that seems frozen in time, compared to your previous work focused on the intense urban life of New York?

Indeed, the difference in environment between NY and Wilson is striking. In My Wonderland, the subject is Manhattan, where you can hardly walk without passing someone every 10 meters. In Wilson, I sometimes didn't pass anyone for 30 minutes. Being here for a month allowed me to get a better grasp of this aspect, and to slow down my photography. I was able to take the time to observe the environment more closely, and thus incorporate much more contextual imagery into my story. In My Wonderland, I included 6 images (out of 60) without a living, visible human being, whereas in Before Rebirth, there are 25 images (out of 41) without a living, visible human being.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with artistic director Jean-Matthieu Gautier in creating this book? How did his influence shape your artistic approach?

As a photojournalist, Jean Matthieu has extensive experience of documentary photography. He has already made one major change: he advised me to switch my images to 4/5 format, which was more suited to documentary photography, and also made my rather "empty" images much more effective. Finally, he gave me a fresh look at my images.

What were the main challenges you faced in trying to capture the soul of Wilson through your lens, particularly given its smaller population compared to the metropolis of New York?

I had to find elements in the environment that would describe my feelings about the city. For this residency, I wanted to integrate portraits of strangers into my project, and this made even more sense once I was there, as the people of the city are very optimistic and proud, and this is what I was able to show through the 4 portraits I integrated into the story. Portraits of people, either in beautiful light, looking to the future, or even smiling. They bring depth to the project, and are the soul of the city.

How would you describe the evolution of your creative process throughout your stay in Wilson and the making of this book? Did you encounter moments of frustration or particular inspiration?

This being my 1st photographic residency, I was a little apprehensive when I arrived: what if I couldn't find anything to tell in pictures? Especially as my residency was in December, which is generally a time of year when I don't photograph much. But I was very lucky, the weather was fantastic and I was able to explore the city from day one (25km a day). Very quickly, I found this guideline around rebirth, the beginnings, optimism and renewal, and this helped me a lot for the rest of my residency. My moments of frustration came when I was trying to assemble my images into a narrative, but as with MY Wonderland, everything came together in 2 sessions of 1h30 after many months of procrastination. The time elapsed also enabled me to be more detached from the images and thus remove some that I love but are less relevant.

What visual or thematic elements did you seek to highlight in "Before Rebirth" to reflect your perception of Wilson and its potential for transformation?

I was very much looking for the beautiful light, the providential one, which could herald better days to come. I was also looking for all kinds of details related to rebirth, such as fallen leaves. But I sincerely believe that once you find a story to tell, you can see the links in many of the situations you encounter.

How do you envision this book contributing to changing people's perceptions of Wilson and other similar cities that may be facing urban renewal challenges?

I don't really have an answer to that question. During the pre-order period, the majority of orders came from France, and the book will allow people to discover a classic American small town. For the people in Wilson who are going to discover it, it's mainly going to give them an outsider's view of the town.

What are your perspectives on the balance between preserving historical heritage and urban development in cities like Wilson, and how does this reflect in your photographic work?

 Small American cities are very similar. A town center with 3-4 "main" streets and a few shops, and numerous shopping areas on the outskirts of town, where activity is concentrated. But Wilson is changing, with the construction of a large apartment building in the center of town, and it will be interesting to follow the evolution of the center in the years to come.

What message or emotion do you hope to convey to readers through the images and narrative of "Before Rebirth"?

With Before Rebirth, I wanted to shine a light on the city in which I loved spending this residency. What's more, this residency came a few months after my father's death, and for me it was also a moment of rebirth as a man, without his father. It's also a way for me to tell my own story without talking about myself.

Order Cedric Roux's latest book "BEFORE REBIRTH" at EDITIONS ODYSSÉE.

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