Born in France, lived in Kenya, Greece, US, Tanzania and Ivory Cost for studies or otherwise, Magali Couffon De Trevros finally dropped anchor in India in 1994. At least for the time being. Since then, she’s been photographing people from all over the country. “I think one of the best things about living in different countries is that it makes you open minded. You are exposed to different cultures, colours of skin, different people — you end up treating everyone on the same level. Growing up in Africa, which is not a very rich continent as such, you get used to a lot of things. I am not sure if it helps one to understand life, but it does give you a different perspective. Even when I came to India, I never felt shock of any kind,” begins Magali, adding, “But I do believe that it has a lot to do with one’s personality.”
Her first solo exhibition, Tribal Lights, will feature 40 photographs that Magali has taken through her journey into tribal areas in Orissa. “Orissa happened just like that. I knew someone who goes there all the time and in 2011 November, I accompanied him with my equipment. This was like my first official photography assignment. There was a festival on in a village called Koraput. We also went to other tribal areas. It was a day and night thing and that’s when I realised that if you can survive a trip such as this, you are ready to be a professional. I think I was way too excited; I dressed up as a war photo-journalist when I was there!” she recalls excitedly. “It’s interesting. Before going, I had all these ideas about Orissa and that it was dangerous. But it was quite easy for us. Of course you take certain precautions when you’re there, but we didn’t have any problem as such.”
“During the festival days, it was amazing to see all these tribal people meet, sing, dance and have fun. They kind of share their culture orally. Even though I didn’t speak their language, I was totally absorbed in the moment. What you will see at the exhibition are my experiences during that travel,” Magali adds.
The photographer, who’s known to experiment with medium quite a bit, has had some of these photographs printed on archival paper, aluminium, canvas, wood and leather.
Photography happened to Magali when she borrowed her father’s camera at the age of 13 and started shooting. “My father eventually gave me that camera when I was 18. He was the sort of man who’d buy me a rocket if I ever wanted to go to the moon,” says the photographer fondly.
From that moment, she was addicted. Addicted to people and their various facial expressions. “People fascinate me. Every face I look at; it’s a different face. And the faces always have a story to tell, which is why most of my photographs are portraits and close-ups,” Magali adds.
After quitting a corporate life that spanned nearly 15 years, Magali decided to follow her passion and went back to studying photography. She began travelling again, meeting new people and discovering new things and of course, shooting people. “Photography for me is not just about taking a picture. I find that it becomes a voice of sorts for your subject.
Photographs talk on behalf of others, especially when people find it hard to communicate.
And they know that somewhere, their stories are going to be told. That is something I really like; deep down, you know you’re helping people tell their stories,” Magali says.
So what would her dream project be? “I would love to work in places such as Bangladesh and Laos. I have been focusing on India a lot. Maybe it would be nice to move out for a while,” she signs off.
Where Shades of Art Studio, 31, Venkat Reddy Layout, 80Ft Road Cross, Koramangala, 6th Cross
When 9.30am to 6pm, from September 7 to October 5, 2013