Didier Bizet was for many years an art director working in advertising agencies in France and overseas. In 2015, he decided to focus on photography full time. He is naturally drawn to the countries of the former Soviet Bloc “where the melancholy of time meekly submits to the camera”. Between fine art and documentary, photography is a way for him to learn about his surroundings: “It gives me a way in and sometimes answers to my own questions about different societies. It’s not only enjoyable – it’s also necessary for my life experience. The world around me is changing, being modernised and developed, always surprising me. I seek out the curiosities of our modern society in order to understand them.” Right from the outset, he embarked on a long-term project, taking him all over the sprawling transcontinental country of Russia over the course of nine journeys, in search of the melancholic side of life. His work featured in numerous magazines, and in 2018 his book Itinéraire d’une mélancolie was published by Juillet. He continued to return to Russia and Crimea, working on subjects such as the Moscow Metro where he spent six hours a day for two weeks: “The Moscow metro system is a different world; for me, it represents all the complexity of Russia’s history and encapsulates its fragility.” In 2019, he spent time in Ekaterinburg where he documented one of the largest pilgrimages in Russia during which every year between 60,000 and 100,000 pilgrims visit the grave of the last tsar, Nicholas II of Russia. This work appeared in the pages of Le Figaro Magazine. Still in the East, Didier Bizet twice visited the shores of the shrinking Aral Sea in Kazakhstan to document the – temporary – return of the water to the Small Aral Sea. This series was picked up by multiple publications, including the French, Finnish and Russian editions of GEO magazine and the German magazine Stern. Didier Bizet is a graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris and has a degree in art history. In 2020, he received a Sony Award for his much-published series Baby Boom, which was then screened at the International Festival of Photojournalism 2020 in Perpignan. That same year, he founded his publishing house Revelatœr, which now has five titles in its catalogue.
Photo at the top: The mobile medical unit of the Order of Malta in Lebanon leaves its base on its way to the region of Arsal, on the Syrian border, where the Syrian refugee camps are located. Twice a week, the bus carrying two doctors and two nurses travels through the region visiting the camps one by one, providing medicine and treatment. The Arsal area is under army control because of tensions between the two countries.
Photos and captions • © Didier Bizet
The economic and health crisis in Lebanon is worsening by the day. Though the country is now enjoying fragile peace, the wars the Lebanese have lived through have typically left a glimmer of hope, giving the people a certain amount of courage. But the current crisis has plunged the eighteen communities which make up the country into uncharted territory. The Lebanese pound has collapsed, more than 70% of the population is now living below the poverty line, chronic disease is soaring throughout the country, importers are no longer supplying medicine, pharmacies are closing one after another, and the most common drugs such as paracetamol are nowhere to be found (or exorbitantly priced), even in the hospitals to which in any case, what with the shortage of fuel, vulnerable populations struggle to have access. For the four million Lebanese and the million and a half Syrian refugees, the only way to obtain free healthcare and medicine is to go to the health centres financed by local non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Order of Malta in Lebanon has also chosen to take to the road several times a week to visit the refugee camps, to help the refugees but also the Lebanese population living in remote villages in insecure areas near the borders with Syria and Israel. The organisation has introduced medical buses which travel around the country in response to the crisis. In each small “mobile hospital” general practitioners, gynaecologists, paediatricians and pharmacists work together, treating up to 250 patients a day, distributing medicines sent from abroad, for example from France through the charity Tulipe. This photo editorial starts in Tulipe’s warehouse in the Paris suburbs and continues in the company of the Order of Malta in Lebanon. This is the organisation I joined up with in the summer of 2021, on the long road to providing healthcare.
Translated from the French by Fay Guerry