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Transhumanism or drug addiction are topics not often discussed in regular conversation. But for Matthieu Gafsou, they are meant to be portrayed, as he follows his natural curiosity to explore the human experience in all its entirety. This fascination with the unexplored and unexpected is manifested in Gafsou’s work as he challenges the audience to reach a greater understanding of the complex nature of our reality and dismantle the stereotypes that staunchly hold them to it.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers, and what it is that you do?
I am a photographer based in Lausanne (Switzerland). My job is divided between my artistic projects, some assignments and some teaching at ECAL, the University of Art and Design in Lausanne.
How did you initially get into photography, and did you ever think that it would become something more than just a hobby?
I got into photography at the end of my academic studies at the University of Lausanne, where I was studying philosophy, literacy and film history and aesthetics. For some reason, not that easy to explain, I decided to buy a good camera and saved money awhile for this purpose. From the day I had the camera, I have been doing pictures every day. It fell on me and never left me.
In addition to philosophy in literacy, you also studied photography at the School of Applied Arts in Vevey. Has a formal education made you a better photographer or do you believe that photography is a skill that only needs to be improved with practice?
I studied at the School of Photography in Vevey but did not follow the technical teaching. I was already a bit old and only followed the called ‘formation supérieure’, which is more oriented on the development of a photographic personal language. I learned a lot there but more about how to think a project, edit it and conceptualize it rather than the technical stuff. I was very naïve about photography and the photographic milieu at the beginning of school, and became a bit less at the end.

Your most recent photographic project, H+, is focused on transhumanism and its everyday purposes to fantasies of immortality. What about the movement drew you to it? How did you go about capturing the people, the things, and the concepts behind the movement?
I was fascinated by this idea that people had found a new way to escape the human condition. I’m also a very anxious person and, even if I am not a transhumanist or religious, I have a lot of empathy for people’s weaknesses. Then, there is the intellectual vertigo; this movement is something really very interesting, complex, worrisome and fascinating.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from this project? And the thing that surprised/shocked you the most?
Technology is not this neutral lovely creature we usually tend to believe it is. It is always related to some ideology, to power, money, people’s aspirations. I hear scientists say they are working for the common good; I know they’re not necessarily lying but I believe they are often wrong.
Why do you believe transhumanism is such a controversial and morally questionable issue to many people? As humanity and technology become more intertwined, it makes sense that we would need technological innovations in order to better our lives.
Because transhumanism raises a lot of problems. First, it may strengthen class struggle, giving access to the very rich people a quality of life no one else will be able to reach. Transhumanism is also related to consumption: it doesn’t at all question the possible need of decreasing the use of resources, the fight against climate change, etc. We can see it as a flight forward.
Another interesting photographic project of yours is Only God Can Judge Me, which I found to be particularly striking. What sparked your interest in Lausanne’s drug scene? I didn’t even know the region had such a big drug problem.
This is exactly the idea. We see Switzerland as a boring and clean place without asperities, without pain or exclusion. And that’s because here, what people don’t want to see is hidden. For most people, drug addicts are shameful. I just wanted to show how complex, ambiguous and sometimes beautiful the drug scene can be.

“Technology is not this neutral lovely creature we usually tend to believe it is. It is always related to some ideology, to power, money, people’s aspirations.”
The portraits that you take of the longtime drug abusers and the close-ups of the drugs themselves are solemn but revealing and poetic at the same time. Was that your intention with this project? To show as many sides as possible to the issue without solely focusing on one perspective?
I wanted the spectator to feel odd, not to know if he was looking at heaven or hell. I needed to show that beauty lies in the margins, not only sadness or misery. I personally believe that the stereotypes must be manhandled, and that art has this ability.
A lot of your photographic projects concern social issues such as transhumanism and drugs. Do you believe that photography can be a positive social force capable of making a change? Would you consider your body of work as somewhat activist or eye-opening?
I’m not an activist. And I don’t believe anymore that art can change mentalities. It can open the eyes to people who are already prepared, conditioned to open their eyes. The matter is that the art milieu in itself is too closed. And the art business kills all the subversion power. That’s la Société du Spectacle
This past summer, H+ was exhibited at the prestigious Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. But what about the present and future?
The H+ exhibition is ‘en route’ to China, where it will be shown during the Jimei X Arles Festival. It will then travel back to Switzerland and will be shown at Galerie C. Then, a lot of things are in discussion right now. Too early to give more details!

Tyler Lea

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