Don’t be fooled by the surface of the medium he uses: Hugo Weber’s work goes deep and cuts like a knife, especially the series with his mother. He utilizes his photography as a trojan horse to witness the beauty of depreciation.
You grew up in Paris then moved to Milan as a kid. Very early your mom had a stroke: What did it feel like to take those intense pictures of her condition?
The story of my mothers illness is just crazy. She was only 45 year old, when the „brain attack“ hit her. Just one month before the stroke she had planned to travel the world. Therefore quit her job, her apartment and bought a one-way-ticket. 31 days later she found herself in a wheelchair.
Truth be told: For me everything changed after her stroke. We weren’t speaking then, but the struggle brought us closer together. It changed the balance of power between us. For the first time in my life I had to worry and care about her and not the other way round. It is still very difficult to take a picture of my mother. She was a photographer herself, so we always had this kind of insane rivalry about the way we exercise photography.
As kid you had to leave your hometown. Have you ever resented your mother for leaving Paris?
It wasn't a real resentment at that time. I just didn't understand what was happening. I was 9, we were poor and I didn't understood why I haven’t had a father. I wasn't able to understand why she needs another man in her life and why we should move to Milan for him. That was a real trauma: I lost my friends, my family, my mother tongue. At the age of 16 I started to return to Paris as often as possible.
What connection do you have to Milan now?
I love Milan. In my adolescence I used to say that I’m proudly French, finally I found out one day, that I was either French nor Italian. I’m just me. Milan also gave me my first love (and the last too), my first film, my first tag, my first fanzine, my first book.
How did you get introduced to graffiti? When did you take your first picture?
My relationship to graffiti is connected to Milan as well. I was involved in a - let’s say: big mess, when I was 14. During my "reintegration into society" I had to do community service. The program manager was a writer and offered leisure activities to help young people with problems from the suburb. That’s the way I got into graffiti: From that day I just never stopped.
And I found my Trojan horse in shooting analogue pictures. I could experience every situation, see the beauty in it, but also not incriminate myself. I can be out with dealers and don't be one of them, I dive into the life of criminals, but I’m not a criminal myself: I’m the photographer.
You seem to be invested in the objects, persons and situations you shoot … what is your mission - what do you want to express?
I give my objects their voice and every picture is a punchline. But I’m still trying to find what I want to say and how. Looking at the pictures I took of my mom four years ago and the last ones, I see a big gap in the way I'm telling our story. I'm anyway very far from being satisfied with the result. The other main thing I want to do are books. I love the idea to see my projects come to life in a physical way, an object which goes beyond pictures only.
If you had three wishes - what would they be?
1 - Have unlimited access to the photo book collection of Martin Parr.
2 - Have a parent with a very rich inheritance.
3 - Vega, my dog, should live 40 more years.
Sincerely my only desire is to keep on working and never feel hungry again. I would like to prove that even if you come from a poor background and struggle you can make it.
courtesy HUGO WEBER
interview FRANCIS SALVATOR
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