Madagascar Nocturnes


It’s late. I’m in a bar in 67 ha* and the dodgy sound system is spitting out dance music. There’s a feel of the North, heat and nonchalance. Before me, a young woman is drawing on her cigarette, deep in thought; she sways on her chair to the salegy beat. I think she’s a bit drunk. She blows smoke up towards the ceiling as if she doesn’t want to bother me. She’s elegant, her gesture is beautiful. I take a photo.

The Malagasy night is my favorite territory. Like all photographers, light is crucial to me. But I avoid bright light; I prefer the gentle glow of a rainy day to the sharp backlight of afternoon sunshine; what appeals to me most is the fragile light of the night, the spare, rare luminosity of Malagasy nightlife. I seek it out, I walk along, tempting chance; maybe it will come from a hotely** in the middle of a street locked in by darkness, a dying streetlamp or a car’s headlights; and when it’s within reach of my lens, it’s no longer me who takes the shot, it’s this luminous oasis that draws the contours and the shadows, that makes the frame and defines the composition.

Once the brief twilight has passed, as the traffic jams slowly start to die down, the streets, pavements and buildings are plunged into an almost eerie darkness. People walk differently, faster, as if afraid of being caught out by the unexpected. They start behaving differently, they seek each other out with their eyes, finding it harder to see; footsteps behind you take on a new meaning, the barks of stray dogs seem ominous.

While the daytime population makes itself cozy at home, a different crowd takes to the streets. Until the first light of dawn, the world belongs to others: people of the night, those who do not sleep, people who work or party, who generate noise and stop others from sleeping. The atmosphere becomes more electric, the rules change. Alcohol, stimulating music, prostitutes looking for uninhibited clients, nonsensical conversations, masks dropped…

I like to be among them. They’re unpredictable and noisy, they have no schedule, no projects, they are simply there to live, from the close to the start of day, their life as nocturnal creatures. And I do as they do, I become one of them, a flitting shadow moving from one point to another, waiting, setting off again, without attracting attention. And I take photos.

I like the night, because no one sees me.

* Working-class neighborhood in Antananarivo
** Typical Malagasy eatery

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