FOTOGRAFIA
*BEAU PATRICK COULON

by Siriana F. Valenti

«As a race, I think we have a long way to go and I don’t think we’ll get there without a little imagination.»

beaupcAntefatto: Settembre, pomeriggio. Mi ritrovavo alla disperata ricerca di un particolare video e mentre l’iPhone 3, ormai pietosamente distrutto da mesi, si inchiodava a intervalli regolari nel tentativo di connettersi, iniziando a spingere ripetutamente pulsanti a caso, deragliavo, in tutti i sensi e con tutti i sensi, sulla pagina video di Beau Patrick Coulon.

Il “Caso” – perché di pura casualità si tratta – può rivelarsi provvidenziale: nonostante la mezz’ora precedente passata a “sclerare”, mi ritrovavo a guardare i video e i lavori fotografici di Beau completamente assorbita da un mondo, il suo, ritratto in una modalità tanto potente quanto totalmente priva di artifici.

Beau racconta una realtà cruda, i suoi scatti non sussurrano all’osservatore un metaforico: «È permesso?», traducono invece una percezione della vita che passa attraverso narrazioni di verità “dritte”, dirette, come in un viaggio a piedi nudi sulle rotaie del treno.

Lui, come ci racconterà in seguito, di viaggi ne ha fatti parecchi, ha guardato negli occhi serpenti a sonagli nordamericani, è rimasto fermo per una notte nel buio totale di un vagone ferroviario immerso nel colore del niente, ha perso i ricordi più cari rubati (le foto di famiglia, gli scatti dell’adolescenza), insieme alla macchina in cui dormiva dieci anni fa; ma, nonostante tutto, continua a viaggiare, senza seguire un itinerario prestabilito, per un’unica forte necessità: l’Anticonformismo.

Nel rispetto del lessico dell’artista questa intervista non è stata tradotta.

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When you were a child what would you like to do getting old? And right now how do you imagine yourself when you’ll get older?
When I was little all I wanted was to learn how to whistle, use the playground swings, and snap my fingers like my older sisters and brothers could. Then I wanted to be an astronaut who traveled to other worlds. As a teenager I thought I’d become a writer. I carried a journal and filled it with awkward adolescent poetry, prose, and sketches. My aspirations are still somewhere between the playground swings and outer space. I like to think I’ll make it to my “old age” but who knows? That’s a lot to expect these days. Right now I just want to live my own life and do creative work.

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For twenty years or so, when you start to feel kind of blue, your escape route it’s to travel around US, free by any kind of programmed itinerary in a sort of “In to the Wild” rediscovering. From those travel you made tons of encounter, experiences, pictures and video. Tell us about your last Train trip, what happened inside you, and how this «two months away from L.A.» may changed you.
Ok it’s like this, I moved out on my own when I was about 13 to live in a squat. Soon after that I got into traveling. Hitch-hiking at first, then I got way into freight trains. Most of my teenage years and twenties were spent traveling around the US and other countries. Then I moved back to LA several years ago and have maintained a sort of base ever since. Although I’m from here, I never really put roots down anywhere before. Living mostly in one place is a relatively new experience for me. I’d say I feel most grounded, most at ease, when I’m moving. So sometimes, when city life starts grinding me, I hit the road for a period of time to recharge my batteries and gain some perspective. “Feeling kind of blue” has nothing to do with it. But I won’t deny that there is a certain charm to the loneliness and lostness of road life. Those are definitely themes I like to explore.

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Beyond your travels photographs, you’re also very intrigued by portraying. In your pictures we find the stories of Lavander, Morgan and his son, Danny… who are they and which is the story behind those photographs?
If I’m doing it right, I think the photos should be able to tell their own story. For the sake of this interview I’ll try to give a little more detail.

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Lavender Buttons Downard
is a lovely and talented friend of mine who lives in Brooklyn and designs beautifully hand crafted jewelry. I like to drink coffee and hang out with her on her stoop. I’ve taken her portrait a couple of times and would be happy to do it again.

Morgan O’kane is a good friend and excellent musician. I stayed with him and his son Cassius in an old abandoned church in Brooklyn last summer. I think that photo was taken at the “punx picnic.” I remember Cassius running laps around his dad in a sort of game of chase, eventually he allowed himself to get caught. Morgan’s face in this photo says more about what was happening than I ever could.

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Danny is my brother from another mother, I love that guy. We were on the street together when we were teenagers. Now he’s married and runs a business. We go shooting sometimes when I’m visiting the Northwest.

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Oona is one of the coolest dogs I’ve ever met. She’s a wolf actually. I’ve known her since she was a tiny puppy. My friend Kiowa raised her.

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In the chat we had when I asked you: «Who or what inspires you in general?», you answered me, without any hesitation: «Definitively my friends, some are gone and some are still here…». Let’s talk about your heritage.
There is a backstory shared between myself and most of my old friends; punk rock, traveling, squatting, activism, fighting police, etc.  We all came from a sort of transient subculture that was very small and kinda close knit at the time. Unfortunately there’s been a lot of drug, alcohol and depression fatalities from that era. If I look through old photos from my formative years on the streets, half of my friends in the pictures are now dead. The one’s who have passed away constantly remind me of the value and fragility of life. They inspire me to find meaning in living and not take things for granted. Some of my friends from back in the day are still surviving and doing interesting things. They inspire me a lot too. I am fortunate to have met people from many different walks of life who have enriched my experiences beyond measure.

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By night, with one of your two cameras, it’s easy to find you at some anarchist hardcore concerts. You told me, once, that kind of music It’s like «dance music» to you. Sometimes with a minivan you drive around your musician friends in tour and you’re also a big Records collector. So, Music, it’s an huge part of you’re life. How did it started and do you recall any funny/weird story related to this?
Yeah I go to a lot of shows. I used to tour with my friend Sturgeon’s band, Leftover Crack. I’d drive the van and sell the merch. It’s rad because you’re hanging out with buddies every night, traveling, going to punk shows, and taking lots of photos. Nothing beats it. You know how some people get all excited about 80’s dance music? That’s the way I feel about hardcore, anarcho punk, and crust. That shit gets my heart pumping. I love it. And every once in a while at a good live show, I can loose myself in it. But I dig all kinds of music; blues, folk, hip hop, cumbia, whatever suits my mood in a given moment. It’s like seasoning your food, the right music at the right time enhances life tremendously.

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Funny/weird story? Ok so a long time ago I was at a Crash Worship show in the basement of C-Squat in NYC. It was a sweltering hot, packed, crazy, show. Then these two undercover cops came in like sore thumbs wearing white sneakers and pink polo shirts. They weren’t fooling anyone. Some of us were looking down at them from a balcony above the stairs and one of my friends, I forget who exactly, started urinating on them. It was hilarious, the cops didn’t even notice where the moisture was coming from because it was so hot and humid in there and beer was getting spilled everywhere amidst all the dancing. But I knew those cops were getting pissed on and it made my night. Finally they just gave up and left and the show continued on.

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You love independent movies, you’re a good reader and also inside you there’s a strong passion for writing Poems. So which movie and book would you suggest us not to be missed?
hahaha! Well I wouldn’t say there’s a strong passion in me to write poems. I was making a joke by telling you that if I tried to write a novel it would end up a Haiku. In all seriousness though, I have a great respect for the written word and the printed page. Books are important to me, if I had a time machine I’d read them all. Unfortunately there aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything, you have to pick and choose. I like books based on real life, autobiographies and autobiographical fiction. There’s a dominant narrative in the world and I’m not much interested in that. I want to see the world from different perspectives. Emma Goldman’s Living My Life is an excellent book, so is Woody Guthrie’s Bound For Glory, Edward Bunker’s Education Of A Felon, and Jack Black’s You Can’t Win. And I’ll read pretty much anything by George Orwell or Howard Zinn. The last book I read was Monster by Sanyika Shakur. I’d recommend any of those books.
As for movies? So far this year I really liked Fruitvale Station and The Place Beyond The Pines. I’m a fan of all the early work by Jeunet & Caro, Alex Cox, and Jim Jarmusch. And I love pretty much anything by Fellini, Kubrick or the Coen Brothers.

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Last question: are you religious? If not in what do you strongly believe and which is the recipe for the: Do it Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfucking Sad?
Well I wouldn’t say I was particularly religious, or particularly atheist for that matter. I believe there is a vast universe that we all get to be a part of and that’s enough for me. It’s important not to have the possibilities limited to the very narrow realm of human understanding. As a race, I think we have a long way to go and I don’t think we’ll get there without a little imagination.

(As far as The DIY Guide For Fighting TBMFS goes, that’s a zine I read recently by Adam Gnade. It was pretty cool, you should read it if you’re interested.)

WEB* beaupatrickcoulon.com