When did you start working on the series?
I started my project with the people of the South Wales Valleys when I moved there in September 2015. I was familiar with the history and social situation of this area before living there, but I had never really had the opportunity to explore it. But in September, I was commissioned to start a three-month residency (which became ten) to document the area and the people living there. That’s how it started.
Why did you concentrate on children for your series?
Because it’s a difficult area, with high poverty, brutal architecture and, of course, the rain, I became interested in the children growing up in this environment and wanted to document what it’s like to grow up there. I wanted to play with them, and show them something they are not familiar with: creativity. I didn’t only want to photograph them, but also to teach them things about photography, fashion, etc.
Do you think that your series is also a political statement?
This area of Great Britain is often seen as one of the deprived places, and most of the images or documentaries coming out of there emphasize this aspect: drugs, alcohol, people on benefits, obesity, council estates, illness, etc. This is a reality, but, of course, there are other things. I didn’t feel comfortable showing that. It’s not fair for the people living there to always be shown as victims. I wanted to find beauty and try to show this area in a different way. I wasn’t interested in coming for a couple of days and then leaving – like most journalists do.
Read the full interview with Clémentine Schneidermann in the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2016 special edition of LFI, available from the LFI Shop.