Patrick Masson has been providing professional and personal support to Passerelles numériques for some years now. He is a passionate photographer and when we told him that we wanted to have a thorough photo report to illustrate PN’s impact on the students and their families, Patrick, camera at the ready, jumped into a plane heading for Asia! Meeting with a friend of Passerelles numériques.

Hello Patrick! Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
I am 70, I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life as a management consultant, having started my career in the commercial and marketing fields. I have many interests: travelling, running races, reading, films and, of course, photography. Even when I was an adolescent I always had a camera in my hand and my passion for photography has increased ever since. Now that I am a pensioner, it is time to make photography more than a hobby, more a real, full time occupation and a new profession.

It is precisely because you love photography that we would like to talk to you, since you are currently in the middle of doing a photo report for Passerelles numériques. Can you tell us more about it?
The project came about because of my closeness to PN, my friendship with Benoît Genuini and Maud Lhuillier and my desire to put my love of photography and my interest in Asia at their service. Of course, the aim is to showcase Passerelles numériques’ mission, its impact on its beneficiaries, their families and their environment. Following considerable reflection and cogitation, we decided to portray what had become of alumni several years after they had completed their training. So I am off to meet about ten young people and their families, spending 10 days in each of the three countries.

Patrick during a photoshoot in the Philippines

What is your vision for the photo report? What are you seeking to express and share?
My quest is that of communion and balance.
Communion is to look deep into the eyes of the person in front of me, in an ephemeral face-to-face, full of complicity. Communion is a child’s smile, the seriousness and wisdom of someone old, the charm and elegance of every woman.
Balance is the moment everything comes together, each gesture, every posture, in harmony with a place, a view, a monument, an alleyway. The previous instant there’s nothing, the following one is merely banal, the right moment is the magic second when each piece of the puzzle is in its place.
In my photos I love to convey my world and test other people’s vision; tell a story, a story where each individual can build their own story, imagine a time before and after.

You have just spent a week in Cambodia and you are now in Vietnam, before flying off to the Philippines. You have met the support teams, the Passerelles numériques students, the graduate alumni and their families. Could you share some of these encounters with us?
The meetings were very interesting and full of emotion. What they all had in common, and what struck me, was everyone’s kindness and friendliness. Over and above that, there were some highlights: the students smile whenever they see you and greet you with a warm “hello teacher” ; two graduate alumni, overtaken by emotion when they talked about their early years, could not hold back their tears; one of the alumni went to visit his ailing and suffering 89 year-old grandmother (she had brought him up because his parents had died of aids) gave her a lovely box of biscuits and helped her to eat one; and a fit of giggles in the girls’ dormitory where they had put up a poster detailing the budget for a wedding, with us asking for more information and challenging each line!

You said previously that the main aim of this photo report was to illustrate Passerelles numériques’ impact on our direct beneficiaries, as well as the indirect ones, such as their families and more generally, their countries. Since you have taken a close look at it, what are your impressions?
I met three graduate alumni in Cambodia and they all said « PN changed my life”. They are comfortable with themselves, have interesting jobs, and are all thinking of setting up their own businesses. When you listen to them talking about their lives you can see where they have come from: from poverty, in some cases extreme, to a good job. All three are supporting their parents financially, two of them have bought their own apartments and one is driving a splendid brand new Lexus!

Patrick with a former student of PN Vietnam
Patrick with former students in the Philippines

Finally, your friendship with Passerelles numériques began several years ago. Can you tell us how it came about?
Once upon a time…. 5 years ago, I was Associate Partner of Dynargie , and we got the idea of funding an association whose aim was people development. Maud Lhuillier, the current Asia Director of Passerelles numériques, was one of my colleagues at that time, so she had no difficulty convincing us; Passerelles numériques was the obvious choice for us.
I became greatly involved as I was project manager of our partnership with PN, and in this context I came to Cambodia in 2012. I was shocked to discover the social reality of Cambodia, but what a pleasure it was to meet the deeply committed local teams and the very welcoming students. Since then I have facilitated seminars for the PN teams in Paris, and then this photo report opportunity came up.

Your journey continues in India with other personal projects. Bon voyage and thank you Patrick!