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Capturing a life in motion

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Jazzman Louis Sclavis presents his debut photography exhibit of images from a cell phone camera that he calls ‘something between a poem and a picture'

Louis Sclavis

One of the photographs going on exhibit today at the French Cultural Centre that document the fleeting moments of the artist’s life.

AT any given moment, even the most banal objects or scenes can be transformed into compelling visions of strength, beauty, hilarity or nostalgia.

It is these fleeting moments that renowned French jazzman Louis Sclavis has managed to capture in his debut photography exhibition at the French Cultural Centre this month.

Louis Sclavis is widely known in the jazz world as an accomplished composer and musician who has been playing the clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone for more than 35 years. He has produced numerous albums of his music, recorded soundtracks for movies and performed with some of Europe's greatest living jazz musicians.

But for the past three years, Sclavis has also been taking simple yet engaging photographs with nothing more than the rudimentary camera built into his mobile phone.

"With a regular camera, you feel restricted, like you have to be a talented photographer, but with a cell phone, you have no inhibitions. You can just capture what can be seen," Sclavis said.

Sclavis has never studied photography and has no illusions of grandeur when it comes to his images. Rather, his photographs are a collection of images from everyday life that he has seen and wanted to capture.

I NEVER SET UP ANY OF THE SHOTS. I ONLY SHOOT WHAT I SEE. I SEE A SCENE AND I WANT TO FRAME IT.

"This type of photo can be shot anywhere in the world," he said. "I never set up any of the shots. I only shoot what I see. I see a scene and I want to frame it. In this way, it becomes not so much a photo, but a picture, an image."

The photographs were taken mainly in France but also in a few other cities across Europe, and consist of a mix of black-and-white and colour shots of anything from quaint country landscapes to crosswalks, stylised graffiti on inner city walls, the delicate, graceful curve of a balustrade, and everything in between.

While the photos could rightly stand on their own as aesthetically pleasing snippets of everyday moments, Sclavis has given each photograph a title that operates together with the photograph to create what Sclavis calls "something between a poem and a picture".

Take, for example, the artist's piece titled "Ducks". At first glance, it seems to be nothing more than a close-up shot of a row of grocery cart handles. But on further inspection, and with the title in mind, the artist's imagination begins to emerge. The plastic joints connecting the handles to the cart's body begin to resemble the heads of ducks, with round black screws for eyes, and the vibrant yellow handles become the beaks of the grocery-cart ducks.

The photo of brightly coloured toy robots, boldly displayed on a multi-level podium and shot through a chain-link fence, takes on a whole new meaning when contemplated with the title "Help" in mind.

Sclavis remains modest. "I don't want to compare my work with high-quality photographers. Music is my life, but the photos, maybe they're something great, maybe not, I don't know." But the exhibition is clearly a testament to the fact that the artist's creativity is not limited to simply music alone.

This is Sclavis's first photographic exhibition and will be followed later in the year by a larger photography exhibition in France.

The exhibition begins today at the French Cultural Centre and runs through the middle of February. Sclavis will also be performing a concert with a select group of local Cambodian musicians on Saturday, and a silent movie featuring his musical compositions will be on display on Tuesday.

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