Nigel : Why did you focus on hotels for this project?
Stuart: I wanted there to be a tension between the inside of the hotel - often plush, and set out according to international standards - with the locally specific exterior. Sometimes these tensions collide, as in the photograph of the English-style armchairs in a tent in the Serengeti. Here the landscape is seen through the mosquito netting. Sometimes the exteriors is seen through the wall of the hotel, as in Zanzibar where people cavorting on the beach are frozen in the circular patterns of the hotel fence.
Nigel: What special qualities do they have that reveal important aspects of Africa?
Stuart: Well the interiors mostly depict a hybrid space between global design and local culture, so that there are African woodcarvings or paintings set amongst international hotel culture.
Nigel: What would you say to someone who thought you were aestheticizing elements of Africa, focussing on surface visual juxtapositions rather than the more sinister aspects of corruption, violence and crime?
Stuart: I'd say they were right, although I hope that the scent of corruption is evident in some of the photographs, especially from Niger.
Nigel: Could you pick out one of your favourite images, describe it, and say what you were trying to do with the photograph.
Stuart: I have two favourite photographs - the man putting on a tie for the first time to go to work in a hotel in Accra, and the photograph, shot through a window, of men by a pool and cars streaming down a highway in Abidjan. I'll talk about this picture. For me it works on two levels. Hotels engage with a form of persuasive representation that will always seek to hide any faults (in the hotel itself or environment) and play up anything positive even if not quite true. Here I am reminded of hotel ads that claim to have stunning views beside the beach and omit the 6 lane highway just outside. The same with swimming pools: they should never look over a motorway. On another level the image shows these white (I am guessing) business visitors in the pool. The space they enjoy is small and discrete, almost like birds in tree above the regular ebb and flow of human activity. Here I sought to make clear this separation between the people in the picture and the rest of Africa - a distance they themselves seek..
Nigel: Africa is very diverse...
Nigel: What is your next project? A book to be called 'Footprint' on the changing landscape of Europe in the face of climate change. [Some of the images from this project are available from www.stuartfranklin.com]
Nigel: Thank you very much.