Rider’s Lens: Edouard Sepulchre in the Desert
In this edition of Rider’s Lens, we catch up with French photographer Edouard Sepulchre, who we first met while bikepacking through Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert earlier this year. Read on to learn about Edouard’s quest to seek out pieces of America in unexpected places and to assemble his own visual world from the people and places he encounters amid arid landscapes…
Words and photos by Edouard Sepulchre (@edsupulchre)
In general, I’m most interested in traveling to unknown places and trying to build something coherent from the broken pieces I find there. I naturally move toward those universes that have a fairly graphic dimension. There are two ongoing projects that I’ve chosen to highlight here:
“Dryland” is my attempt to create a world from the disparate landscapes and characters I’ve encountered in the arid lands of North Africa and the Middle East.
“Looking for America” seeks the subjective presence of America in the rest of the world.
The American West is at the heart of my fascination with deserts and dry places. This vision has been omnipresent in my imagination since childhood. Occasionally, when I’m on site in the desert, I’ll even have Mad Max-esque visions of how those environments might someday look. And, of course, there are unique sensations that the desert provides. I can sometimes drive or cycle 100km through the landscape and only cross paths with a couple of cars or a few camels.
The desert can give us the impression of being like a god. Its silence and emptiness give way to a projection of space – we can create any world we want there, even more so when you’re traveling by bicycle, because the landscapes scroll past at just the right speed, almost like a roll of film.
On a graphic level, the desert is an interesting place. Its background decor is plain and uncluttered, and when something appears within the scenery it is immediately highlighted.
I didn’t study photography, but I worked in an advertising agency for 10 years, so I looked at a lot of pictures. My path to becoming a full-time photographer is somewhat difficult to explain, but I think we all have some kind of desire sleeping within us, and one day we decide to explore it, to really put ourselves in it for good. What I like most about photography is its ability to simultaneously synthesize reality and stimulate the imagination.
Traveling by bicycle hasn’t necessarily changed the way I do my photography, but it’s been a valuable tool that I’ve had to learn to use. I think bicycle travel changes our relationship with the environment, so perhaps in that way it does change the kind of pictures we take. On a bike, our senses are on alert. We’re acutely aware of the wind, the temperature, and our movements. It makes for a unique kind of dialogue with the environment, one that’s somehow more wild. When traveling through more remote areas, the bike naturally facilitates human contact. On a bicycle, you become a curiosity, people are less suspicious. And, in urban areas, cycling makes it possible to survey a much larger geographical area while still maintaining a pedestrian’s level of attention to detail. Conversely, traveling by car amputates our sensations and anesthetizes our relationship with the outside world.
Looking to the future, I’d like to travel as far and as often as possible. I still have some countries to visit for my Dryland project, such as Algeria and Palestine. I will also surely return to Morocco’s Anti-Atlas Mountains. Eventually, I’d like to make a book and curate an exhibition of the series. My Looking for America project has endless subject matter, so I’ll only be able to stop that one when I finally feel like I’m going in circles.
Edouard’s Photography Kit
Since 2017, I’ve use a digital medium format camera, the Fujifilm GFX 50s, with a 50mm lens. I also carry a tripod and a small backpack that everything fits in. The set weighs right around 4.5 kg (~10lbs). Most of the time it’s bearable for my back, but when I start to feel soreness I’ll often attach the bag to the front of my handlebars.
Khur, Iran, 2017. I shot this photo in the small town of Khur in Isfahan Province, Iran. I stopped there to take a picture of the general atmosphere of this corner, with the lights strung across the road and the sun’s final rays of the day setting upon the buildings. A wedding party was taking place nearby, and soon enough these two men came out into the street to offer me food and drink. A few minutes later I was invited to join them in the house.
About Edouard Sepulchre
Edouard Sepulchre is a French photographer who lives in Paris. In 2010, after a decade of working in advertising, he decided to fully dedicate his time to photography. His first few projects revolved around various communities on wheels (roller derby, vintage cycling, and underground bikers). He uses photography to reconstruct the real world, from nearby urban Parisian neighborhoods to desert landscapes in the American West, Morocco, and Iron. You can find more of Edouard’s work on his portfolio, on Tumblr, and on Instagram @edsepulchre.