Friday, June 15, 2007
Jean-François Rauzier - The Image Is In The Details
Jean-François Rauzier's Hyper-photo composites are extraordinary in size, in vision and particularly in detail.
The composited images are of enormous proportions, wall-sized photos that you can almost walk into, literally, in the case of a recent exhibit at the Los Angeles Pacific Design Center, where three separate fabric prints of a Rauzier image were printed in a succession of enlargements, mimicking the feel of walking into the symmetrical world of the image. Each curtain was a doorway, opening to finer details that weren't easily noticeable upon first inspection—antiquated pictures submerged in the water of a lake, a picnicking couple along a river bank, even down to the texture of tree limbs and single blades of grass. The human eye isn't remotely able to capture the precise details of each Hyper-photo.
“No lens can give the perfect sharpness in one photo,” Rauzier says, “from as close as 12 inches up to infinity, that I can achieve by assembling 500 photos. It's interesting to know that the details exist, hidden in the picture, as in reality. And during an exhibition, I exhibit cropped and enlarged details. People go alternatively to the picture—and the details.”
Rauzier wants the viewer to have to decide whether the image is a photograph or a painting, or both, in some cases, as in the “Ideal Library of the Senate,” where some of the library patrons are photographed as paintings of prominent literary figures. Thematically, his ideas and images form puzzles themselves.
“I'm really dreaming awake—sometimes sleeping in front of my computer, oui, oui! I go to bed and awake always thinking about the image I'm making, as in a wonderful dream. During the long period of time it takes me to work on my image, my imagination is working, especially when I'm sleeping in front of the computer, and a story is coming step by step.
“Objects and people are telling it,” he continues. “Some objects are recurrent—snakes, apples, cats, roses, mystic or sexual symbols—things we have in our unconscious minds. Always existential questions: Why are we here? What must we do? Are we responsible for the good and the bad? My recurrent themes are the original sin, the innocence of a child that's lost very quickly and we don't remember exactly when and how.”
“First I need large landscapes, fields and deserts, other escapes,” Rauzier explains. “Most of the time, a landscape inspires me. I have an emotion, but I can't really see how the final image will be. It's very important to know that because it was difficult for me at first. It's exactly the opposite of photography. As a classic photographer, I look in my viewfinder and shoot and I have my picture. In the case of the Hyper-photo, in the viewfinder, I just see details. I tried every wide-angle viewfinder as a movie director would, but it's impossible to have 360-degree vision; 180-degree viewfinders exist, but there's so much distortion that we can't imagine the result. So when I shoot, I have some ideas, but I don't know how it will be in the end. It's always an adventure, a discovery of a parallel world.”
Adds Rauzier, “Now, I also explore towns, industry, urban places—any great locations with a lot of details and material to work with. For some pictures, such as the “Ideal Library of the Senate,” “Latest News,” the very surrealistic images, I have a very precise idea before taking pictures and have to find the location closest to my idea to create it. Some, like “NY Reservoir,” are by chance. I was invited to a party and had a shock seeing the view from the flat. I just had to come back, shoot and respect the reality, enhancing some things, but changing very little.”
Rauzier's minute changes can be significant, though. “To create my ideal world,” he says, “I remove whatever signifies human presence in order to give the landscape its original virginity, perhaps a quest for the Garden of Eden. In a landscape, I'll try to re-create the original nature—timeless fields, even though planted by man, without ugly electric cables, houses, roads, cars—anything that was added recently, except for the objects I add to tell a story, to say something. Often abandoned objects, unexpected things.”
At the same time that he's removing things, Rauzier will place any number of photographically found objects, whatever he feels he needs to complete an image. Basketballs sit motionless in a still desert, dogs float on high-backed chairs along a shoreline, abandoned bicycles are strewn about an otherwise abandoned road. Many of these he will shoot in the studio, using a medium-format camera to avoid having to join together more images than already necessary.
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