April 4, 2020. On this day, the million people infected with Covid-19 around the world are exceeded. More than 50% of humanity is confined or lives under containment measures. Photographer Lucien Lung has embarked on a photographic world tour by selecting webcam images all taken at noon.
Le Temps: How did you select all these images?
Lucien Lung: After spotting the webcams accessible in different corners of the world, I, on April 4, 2020 at noon, operated a small marathon of screenshots of the chosen places. This selection paradoxically highlights the states in the world that are not connected and those where the images of webcams are locked. We note that Africa is hardly represented, except South Africa. While half of the surveillance cameras are in China, their footage is not freely accessible.
For the final selection, I kept iconic places in the world and what spoke to me directly. At the same time, on D-Day, some places remained permanently inaccessible due to technical problems or camera protection.
How does your approach fit into a work of memory?
Fifty percent of the world’s population lives under containment measures, I wanted to see what the world could look like when you stop it at a moment. The images produced by webcams are ephemeral, no one looks at them anymore. forty-eight hours at most. They are not intended to be preserved. Freezing part of the flow made it possible to describe the state of a certain world at a particular moment in the pandemic.
Looking at the images a year later, it caused me to “shoot” in the world “before”, a world that no longer exists as such. As the pandemic is still not regulated, this work takes on its full meaning. This work also reminds us that individual freedoms can be very quickly restricted without our being able to have any direct influence.
Is there a desire to draw up a typology of places?
I like non-places, which also add humor and say more than some well-known places. An example: the Saint-Arnoux toll in Yvelines, France, says a lot more, once closed to traffic, about the travel restriction period, than the Place de la Concorde.
I of course, like other photographers, took images of iconic places, emptied of their passers-by due to confinement, but I found it interesting to document this “stop” of the world, from my place of confinement. It is also the multiplicity of viewpoints of webcams that bear witness to the pandemic and not a single image.
What is the link between this achievement and documentary photography?
As a producer of photographs, there is the “ego” side of seeing my own images unfold. Here, my intervention is limited to the selection and collection of images and what I found available at that precise moment.