Cheap & Plastique interviews Swiss-based photographer Joël Tettamanti for Issue 8.
C & P: Where do you currently live?
Joël: I am living in Lausanne, Switzerland. But I grew up in the Jura region, after my childhood in Africa (born in Cameroon, then moved to Lesotho).
C & P: What do you like most about living in Lausanne?
Joël: I really enjoy living in Switzerland, it is a very quiet country. Because I travel quite a lot, I do appreciate to come back here and relax. I feel on holiday here, when I travel it is work.
C & P: Is this where you grew up?
Joël: No, I grew up in Lesotho and then Jura, in a small village near La Chaux de Fonds called Les Breuleux.
C & P: You often shoot snowy landscapes. Does living in Lausanne influence the places that you are drawn to as your subject matter in your photography practice?
Joël: I am very influenced by the things that I saw in my childhood and snow is one of those things.
C & P: Did you imagine that you would be an artist/photographer in adulthood?
Joël: No, I always wanted to become an alpinist. Then an architect and then a professional snowboarder. Being an artist is something odd to me.
C & P: You said that when you were younger you wanted to be an alpinist. Do you feel that your experience of photographing these remote places is similar to an expedition?
Joël: Yes, but the mountain is much more difficult to reach. But my equipment sometimes looks like a climber’s!
C & P: Is the idea of an expedition important to your photographic practice?
Joël: I like it. But nothing of an expedition is really relevant to my work.
C & P: Many people are afraid of big cities and the dangers associated with city life. Are you ever fearful when you find yourself so far removed from other humans and urban “civilization” and immersed in Nature?
Joël: If you look at my work carefully, I believe that it s very far from a nature thing. It’s more suburbs.
C & P: How long have you been taking and exhibiting photographs? What drew you to the medium and why did you choose to pursue it seriously?
Joël: 10 years more or less. My teacher at the art school school showed me a large format camera and I fell in love with it. I don’t know how to use any smaller camera.
C & P: What type of camera do you shoot with?
A digital SLR or a film camera?
Joël: Toyo 4/5 inch with negative film.
C & P: Do you use the computer as a tool when creating your photographs?
Joël: No, but my lab does.
C & P: Many of your pictures are people-free, which makes them feel somewhat artificial, a bit like abandoned movie sets. Do you prefer to photograph places that are void of people?
Joël: It’s a coincidence that there is no one where I go.
C & P: The structures in many of your photographs seem unique to the place where you are shooting. What attracts you to these strange structures? Do you go to a place specifically to seek out architectural oddities that cannot be found in other parts of the world?
Joël: These objects are everywhere. I feel attracted to them. I have optimized my eyes to find them.
C & P: Can you get inside of these structures? Are the interiors interesting to you also?
Joël: Sometimes, but they are mostly closed. I do like the insides of them as well.
C & P: How do you scout out locations for future photo series?
Joël: Many different ways. Mostly because of visits to people, friends and family around the world.
C & P: Do you research places on the internet?
C & P: Do people tell you about places that you may find of interest?
Joël: Yes, But I always forget to write it down.
C & P: Or do you randomly travel somewhere hoping to find something interesting to shoot there?
C & P: You have photographed different villages in your Greenland series. How did you first go to Greenland and what makes you continue to make trips there?
Joël: I went to Greenland to visit my family who were living there for a while.
C & P: How long do you stay when you travel there?
Joël: 10-15 days.
C & P: How do you get around in these empty places?
Joël: I usually walk.
C & P: When you are shooting are you usually alone or do you have a guide with you?
Joël: Mostly alone. But there are places where you need someone. Like in Africa, for example.
C & P: Is there ever a fear of being attacked by wild animals (polar bears, maybe?) or of offending the native dwellers?
Joël: Ha ha! I am more afraid of the human beings than animals! But I have had some troubles that I prefer to forget…
C & P: Have you been to NYC or to the US? Do you have any interest in making images in the United States?
Joël: I‘d love to. Do you want to invite me? I can book a plane right now!
C & P: Has the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher influenced you?
Joël: Of course, as well as loads of others. I hope that I am an inspiration too.
C & P: What artists do you admire? Contemporary? Past?
Joël: So many, too many. Any century or epoque.
C & P: What people / places / things inspire you?
Joël: Everything/everyone… is an inspiration to me.
C & P: What could you imagine doing, if you didn’t do what you do?
Joël: Mmmm, difficult to find a better job. Oh, yes, maybe having a vineyard is another dream.
C & P: Where can we find your portfolio website?