HEALTHY LIVING
05/10/2012 07:42 am ET

How Much Is Too Much? An Artist's Take On Abundance Vs. Accumulation

In keeping with this week's informal theme of abundance, gratitude, and all things related to financial fear, we reached out to French artist Alain Delorme to get his thoughts on the subject of abundance vs. accumulation -- a theme he recently explored in his gorgeous series of retouched photographs, "Totems." (See slideshow below.)

Q: The people in your images are all transporting enormous loads. Is that a metaphor for the burdens of materialism?

A: Totems is an artistic series, not a documentary. The images have been retouched -- especially the huge loads -- to create a feeling of strangeness. My first objective was to give my own vision of China. We all have in mind images of masses of people working in big factories. I wanted to go in the opposite direction and focus on the individual.

Shanghai -- where I shot the images -- is China's most capitalist city; the gap between rich and poor is huge. For once, the stress is not on the skyscrapers, but on the migrants who walk the length and breadth of the city with incredible loads. At first, they appear to be superheroes. But very quickly, we have the feeling that the objects they’re carrying are about to swallow them up, that they are overwhelmed -- just like the consumer is. The loads symbolize this abundance of identical and interchangeable goods we have access to and not really the need of.

Q: What inspired you to do the series?

A: The photos were shot while I was doing an art residency in Shanghai. It's a sprawling city. I live in Paris, which is already a big city, but it seems so small compared to Shanghai. A few days after I arrived, I felt kind of dizzy, sick with the constant turmoil of the city, the endless stimuli coming from all directions. That’s how I set my mind on a series on accumulation. I was also struck by the feeling of a two-tier China, fluctuating between the glorious modernity of its high buildings and the simple lives -- even the deprivation -- of some of the people in the streets.

Q: What was the process behind the series?

A: I took 6,000 pictures in 44 days, bicycling about six hours each day to look for migrants and new loads. I took pictures of the small jobs in Shanghai life that probably won't exist in 20 years. I consciously played with well-known imagery. A lot of us have already seen, at least in a photo, these kinds of migrants carrying loads, so I needed to do something different. Playing with the accumulation enabled me to shed new light and question what accumulation symbolizes. Some people who've travelled in Asian countries think that my pictures are real!

Q: Why is the series called "Totems"?

A: For the verticality of the loads, which echoes the height of the skyscrapers. Also, totems are usually considered to be special symbols with spiritual significance. Here they illustrate the object’s worship by our consumer society... an object which is often “Made in China." Personally, I feel that we should consume less but better -- things that are more environmentally friendly and last longer.

Q: What's abundant in your own life right now?

A: Abundance is omnipresent in my life, via the media and especially Internet. There's an abundance of images, of info, of goods. Industries produce cheaper goods that we can more easily afford but that last far less time than they used to, to push us to buy again and again….

What fearless lessons have you learned about wealth and abundance? Comment below, or tweet us all about it @HealthyLiving using the hashtag #becomingfearless. If you tweet, you will automatically be entered into Toyota Corolla's Most Fearless Tweet Contest! (Click here for the Official Rules.)

For more about Alain Delorme, visit his website.

PHOTO GALLERY
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BEFORE YOU GO
SLIDESHOW: An Artist's-Eye-View Of Abundance
PHOTO GALLERY
SLIDESHOW: An Artist's-Eye-View Of Abundance

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