Looking at Anissa Tijani’s photography is like being warped into a different dimension. A place where reality is the protagonist, yet is seen from an entirely poetical angle. All components harmonize in what is essentially a lyrical process, unique in each picture; a difficult objective to achieve.
‘Street photography is like street poetry,’ explains Tijani. ‘As realistic as it is, street photography is subtler than we think, especially when it includes interaction between people’ – a concept that shines through her work. Chromatic allegories, spatial assonances and physical metaphors concatenate in each of her stills to form ensembles, and they do so with captivating naturalness.
The Munich-based, Sorbonne-educated French photojournalist discovered her passion as a child. After returning from family vacations, the first thing she would do was ask her parents to develop the film, excitedly waiting for pictures to be transformed from viewfinder magic into actual physical objects. Nowadays, street and urbex (urban exploration) photography are Tijani’s main focuses, the latter consisting of shooting abandoned structures such as ruins and old buildings. ‘It may feel like a road trip, yet you’re not going on holiday. Instead, you’re visiting a place that used to exist but does not exist anymore. It’s like time-travelling,’ she says. It’s the contrast that fascinates her – seeing a place being reclaimed by nature, thus acquiring a totally different character.
For Tijani, street photography, of which urbex is simply an off-the-beaten-track occurrence, should focus on situations that can be found anywhere, but that we have lost the ability to observe. ‘Poetry is everywhere, even in this world where we tend to forget what surrounds us. It could be the shop owner downstairs taking care of his fruit and exhibiting a welcoming attitude as people go inside.’
In essence, the message Tijani aims to transmit with her work is an invitation to ‘see that things are not always what they seem to be. We can both think about and see the world in so many different ways,’ she says. To accomplish this mission, the choice of the visual medium is also a statement in itself. ‘Photography is there for both the good times and the bad; there is no actual filter. It is so powerful, it succeeds in delivering a message when words can’t.’
Everyday realities are her main sources of inspiration, as shown by the project she is currently working on about multicultural integration in Germany. ‘I need to look around me and feel like something really grabs my attention in a way that I just can’t stop looking at it and will never be able to stop looking at it. It’s then, during this moment of transfixion, that I know I need to photograph it,’ Tijani explains. The final result depends on preparation, intuition and the ability to keep an open mind. ‘Of course you need to be prepared, but a lot can happen. The best moments usually happen when you stop planning,’ she laughs.
Feature by Livia Formisani