Dazed Digital

Shanghai

Benoit Florencon

October 3, 2011

The photographer behind the Bureau 36 studio is leading the charge for China's musical underground

  • Text by Terence Teh

"My passion for photography helped me translate my love for music into something tangible. It also trained me to focus on specific moments that captured the essence of the artists," introduces Benoit Florencon aka Bureau 36, the emerging Shanghai-based photographer (originally from France) who is making a name for himself within both the Chinese music and photography scenes. It's his portraits of the city's fertile beat movement, alongside his compelling, art-led documentary photography that is gaining him exposure across Asia, leading a niche for the underground.

Satellite Voices: How would you describe your creative outlook?
Benoit Florencon: I love to work as unnoticed as possible, always in the background but with a sharp eye on details. I'm always trying to capture that special fraction of a scene that would appear insignificant at first glance.

SV: Can you highlight some of your favourite recent projects?
Benoit Florencon: I'm currently working on a documentary photography project that I'm really enjoying. It revolves around the Shanghai beat scene. I've been shooting producers and MCs in their home studios. I plan to get interviews from all the people involved and draw a picture of the state of the scene, where it comes from and where it's going. A few months ago I also did a photoshoot for the album release of a Shanghai-based band called AM444, the brainchild of producer Jay.Soul and MC Cha Cha. We met before shooting and exchanged a few ideas over lunch, and all the rest went really smoothly, from finding the locations to the actually shooting, with minimum directing. It was a bit rushed to start with, but the photos turned out just great.

SV: Where do you live in Shanghai and what inspires you about that area of town?
Benoit Florencon: I currently live in the former French concession in what used to be a military compound, super quiet but hellish cold in the winter. I feel like this area remains the most historic of Shanghai, as opposed to newly built districts where old neighborhoods have been replaced by modern compounds. Despite the amount of foreigners, it still feels like the old Shanghai, almost with a village-type life. I don't draw my inspiration from here in general, as some other districts have some more unusual cityscape that I enjoy using as backdrops.

SV: What are some of your favourite hidden city spots?
Benoit Florencon: I want them to remain hidden…

SV: What does your city mean to you?
Benoit Florencon: Definitely duality. Dirt poor and filthy rich, down-to-earth and sky-high. Too many people, too much greed. Pretentious people at every corner, but also a lot of super talented ones from different horizons, you just have to try hard and find them.

SV: Where's the best food spots?
Benoit Florencon: Don't get me started on food, that could be another whole interview. There's an amazing fried dumplings place up in Jing'an district (Shengqian bao for the connoisseurs), a tiny hole in the wall with three tables. I could also tell you about this Japanese ramen place in Gubei. KIN has also some pretty decent food. And this Thai place called Chiangmai, in Jing'an as well. Oh and that Yunnan cuisine place called Southern Barbarian.

SV: Can you talk about the best creative youth cultures in your town? What artists in Shanghai are doing it big for you right now?
Benoit Florencon: In music, there's this local producer called Ceezy, doing jazzy hip hop beats and who's really good and been getting a lot of attention lately. Also Cha Cha, part of Sub-Culture and Uprooted sunshine, definitely one of the Chinese rising stars. She got accepted into Red Bull Music Academy, really wishing her the best. In video, I can praise Charles Lanceplaine for his work on the skate scene and his Dabaoge project, filmed acoustic music sessions. Screen printing studio Idle Beats has been releasing crazy stuff after crazy stuff. For graffiti, definitely keep an eye on Keflione.

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