Alone among many and many all alone: in his Plethora project, Julio Bittencourt does an impressive job of capturing how individuals react within the anonymity of the big city – whether alone or among their equals.
The settings he chooses are swimming pools, capsule hotels, laundromats and the Tokyo underground. The common denominator is always excess: excess in the form of masses or in the form of accumulated loneliness. For the Plethora chapter titled 43 hours, he also produced a video where he focused his attention on city traffic.
LFI: Why did you decide to do the series in video format?
Julio Bittencourt: The series is made up of quite a number of photographs taken in cities. Following a certain amount of trial and error, I felt that the solitude present in the photos could also benefit from having the additional elements that come with video, such as sound and subtle movements. I’m essentially a photographer, but also believe that the pictures are not an end in themselves. A single image that meant something at one point, may have another meaning or be used in another way later on, or in a series; or, driven by future technologies we can’t even yet conceive, becomes something completely different.
When I look at your images, it seems like you’re standing just in front of the cars. How did you create the pictures?
In each of the cities, I was always driven around by a local, and I’d be in the back with a tripod and the windows closed, just waiting for something or nothing to happen. It took me quite a while to figure out how to shoot and make this work, but once I did, it was just a matter of patience.
Did you tell people afterwards that they had been photographed, or was it a completely secret mission?
There was no way to do so. I wish I could have. Although the images are silent, there were these massive cities full of people, cars and traffic all around them – it would be close to impossible to let people know somehow.
How many pictures did you take for this project, and how did you go about selecting which ones to include?
I can’t give an exact number, but certainly thousands. By deciding to shoot at night from inside a car with the windows closed, the light was generally minimal, so a lot of good images were lost because either the people, the traffic or the car I was in moved.
The edit of this series was similar to any other: it was about finding its own flow, sticking to a certain color palette, and moving from images with a little action to stiller ones.
Traffic has this fascinating effect on people, where we can go from being extremely stressed to contemplating something far away from where you’re standing; and part of the edit also tries to take the viewer from images with a little bit of action to more still, silent ones.
More photos from Julio Bittencourt’s Plethora project can be seen in LFI 6/2018. More
Bittencourt loves playing around with reality. His style often appears documentary, while his conceptual series point towards something much larger than the individual picture. Born in Brazil in 1980, Bittencourt grew up in São Paulo and New York. He uses long-term projects to explore the relationship between people and the environment. His work is published and exhibited worldwide. More