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Bouffant wigs, fancy dress, and raw landscapes – a visual travel diary, 'I Called her Lisa Marie' is Clémentine Schneidermann first monograph book. An authentic documentary photographer, it took her five years to complete, each year visiting the seaside resort of Porthcawl one of the world’s largest Elvis festivals in South Wales, as well as Memphis, Tennessee to celebrate the life and music of icon, Elvis Presley. In an interview with us, the French photographer identifies what she calls the reflection on representations: “I find it interesting how ‘the documentary’ is becoming more and more staged” As well her concerns that threaten the position of documentary photography in an age of economic turmoil where photographers have to find various ways to fund projects. Read the interview in full and explore the fascinating images below.

Gut Magazine Death and the Underworld Issue 4

Where did your fascination with Elvis Presley's fans begin?

It started in 2010 when I was living and studying in Switzerland. I discovered a fan club in Romandy, and I went to a few concerts the association regularly organised for its members. I didn't have much experience in photography at the time, but I knew that it was a great story. The humble glamour attracted me, the fantasy and the nostalgia the fans were carrying. I then moved to Wales, and someone told me about a festival by the sea dedicated to Elvis in a town called Porthcawl. I went there for the first time in September 2013, and a few months later I was in Memphis! In total, it took me five years to complete this project, and I published the book recently in May. It was challenging to finish this project as I kept seeing things I would like to photograph, so who knows, there might be a Volume II one day... be a Volume II one day...

What is your background? How did you get into photography?

I grew up in the suburbs of Paris and photography came to me when I was around 16 years old. I was quite lonely, and my camera became my favourite companion. I moved away to Switzerland when I was 18 to study at the Applied Art School of Vevey, and I then completed my formation in Newport, South Wales at the University of South Wales.

Most of your recent documentary projects explore communities in South Wales. Why is this interesting for you?

South Wales is where I have been living for six years. Most of my inspiration comes from where I live and what is around me, so naturally, all my projects started here in South Wales.

I was talking to an Italian the other day who recently moved to Cardiff, and he was saying how he wanted to move to London instead because he disliked the culture and the atmosphere here. He was complaining about the weather, the eccentricities, the manners etc. I understood where he was coming from, but interestingly, for me, it is all these reasons that make me feel inspired here. South Wales couldn’t more be different from France, and this is what I find fascinating.

What are the other themes you like to work on?

I am interested in the effect of time on people. This is probably why I enjoy photographing children so much. It only takes a few years to see them change, and photography is the ideal medium to explore this evolution. I am also interested in small towns, street fashion, hairstyles, identification, glamour, colours and emotions.

What are your thoughts on the modern day documentary photography industry?

I find it interesting how the documentary is becoming more and more staged, and this theme of fiction/reality is very present in contemporary works. The reconstruction of the real and the reflection on representations is very current. By representations, I mean gender, race and class. The difficult economic situation of the press also means that photographers have to find various ways to fund projects, including the art market. Therefore documentary is moving to the art world which is a good and bad thing I think.

Have you worked on any interesting Collaborations? Is this important in your work?

I have collaborated with Charlotte James for a few years now in the South Wales Valleys and different groups of children. I am excited about this work and this collaboration, and I am looking forward to exhibiting it.

What’s next for Clémentine Schneidermann?

I am working with Charlotte James on our first exhibition together with the work we made in the Valleys. Our first exhibition will be at the Martin Parr Foundation in March 2019 in Bristol.

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