James Startt’s Walking Billboards

© James Start

“Walking billboards in contemporary culture” is how photographer James Startt describes his new series of pictures “J’ecrit donc je suis”  recently exhibited at the Galerie Agathe Gaillard.  For these photographs, Startt- well know for his pictures of Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France- takes his camera to the streets to investigate how the lowly T-shirt serves as a medium for many messages.

At his home in Paris, Startt recently recalled his early involvement with “socially concerned” photography, at Indiana University during the ’80s… “I told my teachers back then that I wanted to make pictures like Alfred Hitchcock made films. Not a photographic film noir. But, like the master of suspense… I sought to create images, simple and accessible at first glance, but sufficiently intriguing so that viewers will want to return to them. And, this new series like my books stick to that goal…”

“The idea of people and the messages that they put on their shirts has been with me for a long time… certainly well before I saw it as a photographic theme” says Startt. “Perhaps growing up in America in the 1970s – at the heart of the ‘me generation’ – subliminally made me aware of the need individuals have to express themselves through appearance and attitude… But, although my photographs may be social, they aren’t meant to be moral, or moralizing. I’m only trying to tell a simple story, with humor and ‘lightness’… But, as in a good Ella Fitzgerald song, I’m searching for a ‘lightness’ that isn’t superficial.”

Over the years James Startt has spent much time covering sports, particularly bicycle racing.” In his book “Armstrong’s Sixth,”  Startt takes a fascinating look at that amazing record-breaking race. “To go where no man had gone before is what Lance Armstrong had done. Four riders before him, Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Spain’s Miguel Indurain, all won five Tours. None did six.”

Discussing his new T-shirt series, Startt says  “For me street photography remains the greatest challenge. In the street, there is no ‘finish’ line. There is no encore!.’It’s up to the photographer to create a sense of ‘spectacle,’ a sense of the event, within the limited frame of the camera. Such endeavors are eternally mysterious, forever satisfying…”.

James Startt, “J’ecrit donc je suis”  Galerie Agathe Gaillard, 3, rue Pont Louis Philippe, 75004 Paris