Assignment Iran: Eric Bouvet

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Born in 1961, Eric Bouvet began his photographic career in 1981 after studying art and graphic industries in Paris. At the age of 8 he realized the importance of news and historic moments and capturing them on film. After working as a staff photographer at the French photo agency Gamma, he launched his freelance career in 1990. He has covered major international events including the funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. Bouvet first came to Iran in 1989 as an assignment to cover the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini and he won an international award for a famous photo he took in that funeral. It was then that he became passionate to repeat his visits to Iran even as a freelancer. He has visited Iran three times so far and has returned to France with marvelous shots on his camera. This internationally renown photographer recounts his story of attending the funeral of the leader of the Iranian Islamic Revolution and how he was deeply impressed by the love of Iranian people of their leader. This is in fact part of the series, Assignment Iran, which involve stories of people experiencing the blooming of Islamic Republic of Iran and their roles in it.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [French] Eric Bovert: “Hi. I’m Eric Bouvet I’ve been working as a photographer for 30 years I began my career in 1982 by working for Gamma Agency. For 13 years now, I’ve been working as a freelance photographer. I have been to Iran three times so far. I was born in Paris I’m French and I work in Paris. I got married 32 years ago and have two children.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Eric Bovert: “I was very sad during when internet and digital arrive in 2001, 2002 I fell down, why I fell down about my energy, about my capacity to make pictures, about my pleasure I will say. I lost all my market. I lost all the magazine that makes me, who put me on an assignment. And I didn’t want to be to say I was under pressure but I didn’t understand whether I arrived. Because during 20 years people give you money for to you go somewhere and you make photography, every single one goes well. And suddenly you are nothing; but really nothing so I really fell down I was very upset and jealous and angry. I was this bad things, and so few years after I decide to make a return back, and I say ok so just think about why you are no more, no return? And I understood that the market change of course but also the photography challenge, the digital. So I look a lot to job of what did these young people [who] just arrived in the market. I bought a lot of books on contemporary photography and I was many times in different place for to see exhibition, new exhibition and for to understand that there’s a challenge, what is now the photography. And I learn and I learn and I practice a lot so had other to say I have a new photographer back edge. I can’t change my style, I don’t have a style but I change my way of think and all to make pictures. So now I’m back, ha ha, I hope! I survived yeah! That’s a problem of my generation, many friends of mine who were in Gamma Agency disappeared. They lost and I’m sad for them.”

SOUNDBITE [French] Eric Bovert: “Well, How did I become a photographer? Well, it’s a little bit complicated. I was an eight-year-old boy when one day my mother woke m up to watch on TV the moment when the first man stepped on the moon. It was a great moment for me because I watched the scene on TV, on a small black – and – white TV set. I think that image was very impressive. That image magnetized me towards the media.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [French] Eric Bovert: “Well, at that time, I was just a little child but I wanted to have a try in the media. The thought remained at the back of my mind. After I finished my high school, I had to do military service which was compulsory in France at that time but later on I joined Gamma Agency to work as a photographer.”

“It was for the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini that I first traveled to Iran. So it was very important for me, because in fact when I started this job it was in ah…, I would like to start from Gamma Agency in 1979.

1979 was the return of Ayatollah to Iran. And for me it was very important time in history because at that time I wanted to start this job, and if I had an option… to tell the truth it was very important because it marked my youth…the events in Iran; the revolution, the departing of the Shah, the events at the US embassy and afterwards Ayatollah’s installation as the leader. I hastened to go there. It wasn’t in vain for me because I was still young. It was very important for me , I could go to Iran, and then Ayatollah Khomeini passed away in 1989, ah… in 1989 I was less than 30 years old years old and it was very important for me because it was first steps to Iran.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Eric Bovert: “And I said I want to work per this story about funerals of Khomeini. So it was important because when I began to work in 79 it was when the revolution in Iran, the arrival of Khomeini in Iran 79, for me that’s very important these facts, this actuality was a well, it was certainly the fact I will remember for this few years ago and I decide already to and I was up here to arrive because when I decide to become a photographer in 79 I can’t go, I was not a photographer, but so in 89 when I decide, when he died I was. So it was you know like a … is close somewhere.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Eric Bovert: Eighties was a very good time for photographer. We were before to climb the plane we heard whole life. I was on assignment for Time Magazine, so guarantee from Stern & from Par Image so it was an amazing time. But I decide by myself I was in Gamma Agency at that time so I decided. In fact for the story it was a bit funny because I was on Cinnamon Square just before. And for one month I stayed there and I was tired and I spent a lot of money, nothing happening and all students living from certain square in Beijing and so I decide to come back. I took the plane, I arrived in Paris and I saw wow the tanks arrive in Canamon Square, & push all the student, kill them and blah blah blah and so [exclaims] I miss that and I was very furious! And the picture from the little man in front of the tanks was did [done] by a friend of mine, photographer from Magnum, the room we shared!!! I was in this room, he made a picture where I was living 24 hours before, you see what I mean? It makes me crazy, I missed that you know from my room, he made a picture from my room! So and anyway I missed that and when I wake up out the news I saw Ayatollah Khomeini dead. So I say wow, ok take back my suitcase and come in another plane and I arrive in Tehran and I work well.

First thing is I produce particularly everything at 90% so if I’m working for money, if I have money I will not have/help, so I must produce by myself first thing. Second thing is I must to do of course- like I always did- something different. It means before the round or after or perhaps at the same moment but with another way; another way to work, another way to look, it’s always a way you can it’s always like that I can survive, I can send the story, I can send my picture. We are at Tripoli, you know this magazine, that’s Tripoli,


French Army,

Berlin Wall,

So… Kabul we got in


So must think much more than before, must think different, must do different pictures, must find different way. Because for example it’s the price is sick you know there is no more publicity, there is no more money, no more magazine in the newspapers and so there is no more money for the photographer, so we must to fine other way, to find the money. It means you can produce it, you can make grunts you can for example me I’m doing a lot of workshops; makes me money and I had wrote a book about an experience journey in Chechnya and commando and I sell this book and now theatre and also photo magazine with Her. I make “an vis’a problem a jours” it was a big festival in France it’s an international festival, got something like… so it’s a story always in many different things.

I like this one but I prefer this one… -the Girl far away…This one is very famous; it’s a new way of work, new way of thinking; new way of photography.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Eric Bovert: “And somewhere I was very upset about that, during the 2000 but now I can say thank you because during 20 years nobody tell me hey your picture are not so bad but perhaps you can do better, you know. Nobody tell me! Today I know my picture are not so good and I missed work again and again day, and it’s a good job and I am happy to do that. I regret that not to do it before.”

SOUNDBITE [French] Eric Bovert: “The area was crammed with people, some had fallen unconscious. A large number of people were there brimming with enthusiasm. The scenes were impressive. They were moaning and crying. Those scenes are etched in my mind. I worked there for three days. If I’m not wrong, I walked for about seven to twelve kilometers to get myself to where the Ayatolalh had been buried. Those days are unforgettable. That was one of the rare moments in which a photographer can be. On that day and at that place, I was in the middle of a big event. I’m glad I was there to see the whole event myself rather than follow that on TV. The second time, I was invited by the Iranian Embassy in Paris in appreciation of what I had done during the funeral. I was invited once more for the same reason. At the time, going to Iran was difficult for me.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Eric Bovert: “This is all my visit cards, people love it. I make open door here yesterday and I put my visit card here everybody took one or two… hey, please one. So if you want to buy print I will love to sell one you know, yeah, that’s a new way of work too I’m selling something like one or two pictures per months now. I was a little level, so it’s interesting to see that the people are in interest with the pictures today and so sometimes it’s a, could be anything could be a picture in Paris, it could be this one from Grozny, could be the Cinnamon picture you saw. It could be a mountain picture, deistical, wall picture.

Third time I was in Iran, last time was during… I’m sorry it was during the problem in Iraq with Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish people. It was in 91 I think…, yep. It was the third time and I saw, everybody was in the Turkish border with Iraq, 42 refugees living from north of Iraq from the Kurdistan Iraq. And in fact I decide always to do something different, like I know I could get a visa. I asked to Iran, I have a visa and I have a work quickly from Tehran I took a car, drive all night long to the border and I walk to the border to Iraq-Iran.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Eric Bovert: “And we were only two photographer, it was good! We make very good job, and it was amazing. It was poof… so many people arrived in front of us and it was the third time, my third trip in Iran.

The three times I was there it was very different. One time was for news and another time for news and another time for magazine. Anyway for me it must have important things, uhm not things, this is human, this is the people. Everywhere I am going if that’s not about people’s story it’s interesting me to share these people. So people I met most important. I love to see that in Iran there is lot of different people like everywhere. But so Iran some ways is a special country so there is many many different people. I love to meet all these people.”

I never counted how many wars I do, I should less, for me less is more. I’m, you know, even before I work with this whole camera because you must shoot only one time. Even with my digital, even if I have a classical camera, I shoot very low. Only one time perhaps two time. And prefer to be little mouse and to not disturb the sand and the scenic, just make my pictures quietly, smoothly and ok I do my job like that. At this time people will have motor drive and shoot [khirkhir]… ok I know the way to do something they have no… when you do that I call them amperes… you make a [tatatatatata…] Ok perhaps you will have a good picture, but if you are already looking for one picture, looking for it, you prepare, you wait for it and you push at the right moment: Ok, wow, I got it! It’s much more pleasure, much more it’s another level.

I will love to do something general. So two things, general story make a big trail for one month or two months. A big journy and the second one I will love it to do something about young people, 18 to 22 something like that. It’s very fascinating, perhaps I’m old so ha ha… Very interesting moment of the life, are this young people who begin to trance in the real life, they stop the school and they are between school and work, they are looking for themselves, their identity. Some of them want to go married and some are waiting, some will find work and some want to gain some friends, some wants to traveling, some wants to be carefully and safety with a man or with a girl and so it’s a very important moment of life. Everything changes this moment, and when I look how the young people, it makes me very good interest, I love that.

Oh, This is one.

That, [picture] during the funerals of Ayatollah Khomeini. And I win a world prize for this one. About photography I am a very happy photographer. Not with my picture because I’m always angry with my pictures! They are not some enough good. But its, it makes me happy because a photography permit me to meet people. To live crazy moment of history from this lens and so I love this job and this job is not a passion it’s much more, its life, totally life. But I share if of course with my wife, married 27 years and my two kids from 23 and 18 years old. And just enjoy this life.”

SOUNDBITE [French] Eric Bovert: “I wished to go to Iran, because it was an attractive country to me, because it is full of energy, because it’s a country with different people. I’d like to do a work about Iranian young people because they are Iran’s future. Like other young people around the world, they are looking for themselves. It is this part of the country that attracts me. It is this part that woke me up when I was a young child. Currently, it’s easy to go to Iran. Iran has still remained an attractive, energetic country. It’s an honor for a photographer like me to go to Iran.”


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