Brice Dossin turns a flash-lit lens onto a small Christian community in Goa
The French photographer took a trip to India’s southwest coast 12 years ago. Since then, he’s compiled a book on the strange juxtaposition between rituals, hippies and the modern world.
- Ayla Angelos
- 10 December 2020
Brice Dossin has a thing for the slightly bizarre; those little moments that people often overlook, or the strange beauty found in what another might perceive as trash. So, when out exploring with his camera and flash in tow, the French photographer devotes his time to scavenging these little pieces before photographing them and tucking them into his own world.
This place is what Brice calls his “bubble”, that’s “populated by bigger than life characters – a strange but peaceful place that helps me cope with a lot of the nonsense and harsh aspects of this world.” And in this bubble you’ll find photographs inundated with flash-lit scenes, mostly navigating around the topic of society and mass consumption. “That’s why I use the flash,” he tells It’s Nice That, “it makes colours pop like a commercial, and it allows me to investigate the surface of things. At the same time it turns everyday scenes into a Hollywood movie.”
The reasoning for this collected world is that Brice is actually quite shy. For a long while, he found discomfort in trying to approach his subjects, which naturally posed a few difficulties in wanting to become a photographer. Then, 10 years after he developed his first image in the darkroom – the moment that spawned his obsession with photography – he finally decided to deal with his insecurities and embrace his growing passion. “I struggled quite a bit, but luckily I managed to overcome my issues, to be able to do what I love the most.”
With new-found confidence and years of experience under his belt, Brice has now refined his practice in more ways than one. First is that he begins any project with an in-depth phase of research, looking up all sorts of bits of information about a specific location, such as the history, statistics, customs and events. Brice sees this phase as a means of working out if a place will meet his expectations, as well as giving clarity for when he might need to adapt on the field. Then, he starts with the shooting phase, which will either last for a few days or weeks. Often, he’ll wait a short while before seeing the final results – a purposeful technique that allows him time to perfect the ways in which he approaches his subjects, and whether or not there’s something missing in the work so far.
An example of this can be seen in his trip to Goa 12 years ago, near enough to this date. “I remembered it being a joyful mess,” he says, “with all these different layers that collide during this special time: local Christmas celebrations (cribs contests, kids serenading, midnight mass), inherited from Goa’s colonial past, trance music lovers hypnotised by the repetitive sound of the blaring techno music.” He recalls these experiences as being closely matched to the shamanic, a medley of rituals performed in a small northern village filled with tourists (those that he describes as “long-term” tourists), who are in search of something deeper – “reminiscence of the hippie era”.
There was something about Goa that utterly enticed Brice, and later formed an entire body of work and book, titled Xmas Vindaloo, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing. His main interest about this place is that it would still celebrate Christmas even though you’re more or less guaranteed a 35-degree sunny day. “The whole area felt like a parallel dimension,” he adds. “The truth is, I was curious to study a hippie resort, to see what was left from the original spirit from the ‘60s.”
Historically, Goa is perceived as the “end of the hippie trail”, where hippies travelling from Europe would settle and live freely. Although largely ending in the 70s, there’s still very much an element of era that’s still alive today, but it’s slightly different; the modernised world is juxtaposed with these older traditions. An image that speaks of this is the one of a man with a Santa hat, eating a coconut on the beach beside a cow [pictured above]. “It was during a hippie carnival,” says Brice, “and the carnival was actually cancelled because the Indian Airforce struck Pakistan the day before so all public gatherings were forbidden. But a few people came dressed up anyway. Having the project in mind, I instantly thought this image would be very intriguing in this new context.”
“At the beginning of this project, I went the length and breadth of Goa, and during my second trip I focused on fewer aspects and places, realising that I wouldn’t be able to report on the wholeness of the place. I had to encompass the pieces that were relevant,” he says, resultantly only documenting the things that really struck a chord. “I covered quite a few techno parties and we barely used that in the book because it is a well-known aspect of Goa; it felt too expected.”
A further image is of a dog at night, with a yellow Goan house in the background [below]. “There’s something alien about it,” he concludes. “It’s hard to describe the attraction from this photograph; that is typically a mood that only photography can translate, it’s hard to put words on it.” Otherwise, there are shots of party-goers, tropical scenes, native animals, fake snowmen, a person dressed as Jesus, sunburnt bodies, blown up Father Christmases and even more drinking. It’s a complete mash-up of many different contexts, and that’s exactly what gives this series such an alluring and entertaining quality.
Xmas Vindaloo by Brice Dossin is available here at Dewi Lewis Publishing.
GalleryBrice Dossin: Xmas Vindaloo, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing. (Copyright © Brice Dossin, 2020)
Brice Dossin: Xmas Vindaloo, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing. (Copyright © Brice Dossin, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.