Hubert Hayaud and his iPad application “MANAUS The Great Move”: A New Way for Photographers to Display Complete Reportages?

Hubert Hayaud is both a photographer and a film editor, based in Montréal, Canada. After visiting Manaus, Brasil and witnessing the rapid urban and social transformations the downtown city was facing, he decided to create an iPad application for his project, MANAUS The Great Move, in order to cover the complexity of a phenomenon he captured through multiple aspects, with photography, sound, interviews and texts.

MANAUS The Great Move is now open to other photographers and their personal projects. In the course of the interview, Hubert Hayaud details his own experience and the way this application can be useful for other creative people and photojournalists.

Q: Hubert, can you please introduce yourself?

A: I’ve been a freelance film editor for 15 years now. I work on various projects like feature films, commercials and documentaries. Editing is all about rhythm, structure, narration and emotion, and the editing room is a silent place where you have time to think, experiment, and try again and again. The only frustration is its obvious lack of action. I would sometimes like to be the one who was there to film! This is one of the reasons why photography, which has been a serious hobby of mine since I was a child, has become more and more important to me. But, considering photography as a hobby was not rewarding or challenging enough to me. I wanted to push its practice and pleasure to something more professional.

As an editor, I have done and still do a lot of commercial films. This position gives me a financial independence that allows me to realize the photography I want to do. I guess this is not always good as I find the pressure and critics of the editors often very stimulating. However, in this case, many photographers need to invent their own economic models, which is precisely what I have done.

Editing and photography are intellectually very complementary. The purpose of both of them is the story and the emotions which arise through the rhythm of images. After a few years working on them, I think they both feed one another. I am now co-directing a feature documentary for which I am currently filming and editing.

Q: How would you describe your photographic approach? What are your main concerns while working with photography?

A: I try to see beauty in ordinary things: all the little details that might escape. I have a very classical photojournalistic approach influenced by Alex Webb, Raymond Depardon and many others. I like to take time and be alone – alone, but in the middle of the action. Like many photographers, I think that the camera gives us an amazing opportunity to meet people you would not meet otherwise. Photography is the only way I have found to express my fascination for such a diverse world we have.

As a photographer, I always try to minimize everything I can, from the equipment to what is inside the frame. While shooting, I realize I am often grabbed by “non-places” or “non-moments”: little situations where men and women seem alone.

Q: You’ve recently created a new iPad application, MANAUS The Great Move. What was its starting point and to what kind of assessments does its idea come from?

A: It all started totally hazardously. I was in Manaus, Brasil, for a film festival and found that downtown Manaus was being transformed. This instantly got my attention. It was spectacular to see the traditional wooden stilt houses constructed on river beds being destroyed so quickly and violently. People’s lives were being destroyed in a half an hour with a chainsaw. These people, their houses and their social networks seemed so fragile. That is what touched me at the very beginning.

I spent ten days giving an editing workshop for a festival and decided to stay ten more days walking around the favelas. I went back six months later and met Jacques Denis, a French journalist who was there for Le Monde Diplomatique. He had already worked for Géo France and was able to sell this story to them. So, we went back again one year later with a very precise shot list, including aerial shots, to complete what needed to be done. During these three trips, I recorded sounds and collected postcards and vintage pictures.

The story was first published in Géo France. Jacques and I were very happy about it because being published gives a meaning to your work. It pays for it, and you finally share an issue important to you with an audience. But, even a magazine like Géo France is only able to publish five spreads for a total of nine pictures. It is a magazine. It is not meant to be a book. But, I spent one whole month on the ground. Jacques and I had much more material and information to show and share. The story might look simple, but what happened in this Amazonian city is an urbanization process occurring all around the globe. And because it is complex, we had to show as many aspects and points of view as possible. Originally, we imagined a webdoc, but switched to the iPad. From the beginning, the idea was to make this project the first publication of others. So, money wise, it may not be profitable on the first one, but should be on the following issues.

Q: So, what opportunities does it offer to other photographers?

A: The iPad has a beautiful screen to show pictures. They won’t be cropped or facing a huge commercial. The application is available in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese; you are able to publish it all over the world rather than in just one country. But, most of all, it is a very rewarding process to self-publish your story because you are able to cover it through a complete photojournalist essay. Many very good stories will not find space in the printed media, for all the reasons we already know. So, if ever a photographer has a complete project he has never been able to publish, I hope he will consider this kind of media and contact me. You are fully responsible for your content and it depends on you to publish it or not.

Q: You see your iPad application, also, as a possible “economic model” for photographers. Practically, how can this be realized? As now with the crisis of photojournalism, or more precisely its diffusion, it’s a subject very much discussed. This seems like an extremely important point for photographers.

A: To realize a good webdoc, it is often necessary to spend a lot of energy and money for the navigation experience itself, which in a way, needs to be unique. For this application, we tried to stay closer to the way you would read a magazine. The big advantage is that the programming side would not be so expensive. The main idea was to let the photographer put all the efforts in the content, the story and the subject itself to avoid distraction.

As I said previously, if ever someone has a subject and wants to publish it, using whatever media he uses, I am confident to find a space for it in the application. What we have built can be considered an empty shell where you could put different media for different content. One could come with pictures and drawings, pictures and videos, text and videos, etc. It can adapt. Now that the shell is built, the money goes to the story, not in programming.

One of the reasons to use the iPad was also to explore the iTunes economic model. The web is free and we would not make any money there. Although apps are cheap there is still the potential for income, so it’s worth an exploration for sure. The future will say if it is a good track to stay on.

Thank you, Hubert!

-Leica Internet Team

For more information about the project, click here, and to purchase the iPad App on iTunes click here.  Hubert Hayaud’s personal website can be found here