Guest feature, Paris: French photographer Stéphane Couturier exhibits at La Maison Européenne de la Photographie
December 30, 2015
In the first of a series of guest features covering arts and culture in cities around the world, TSOTA visits La Maison Européenne Da La Photographie in Paris to see the latest exhibition from French photographer Stéphane Couturier.
Walking into the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris (European House of Photography) is like walking into a part of the world’s history and news stories. It puts you in touch with architecture, humanity, nature, industry, wars, conflicts, and happiness, in an historical building bathing in a peaceful atmosphere.
On the last floor you can discover Stéphane Couturier. He is one of the six photographers that currently exhibits at the European House of Photography. It really is on a personal tense that I chose to write about his work. Indeed, I am a person who is very attracted to vivid colours, geometrical forms, wild transformations, and lively movements, everything that reminds me of the power of life, all of which I can find in Stéphane Couturier life work.
This Couturier exhibition is rather a retrospective, as it covers different projects the author has worked on and shows a certain artistic evolution from the 90s up to today. The first set is named Urban Archeology. It introduces the viewer to the movements of cities: to what extent these urban places resemble living organisms found in the page of history and biology. Through the whole exhibition, Couturier’s typical methodology is to work with single pieces “cut out” from larger pictures. Couturier is a photographer who does click his own shots but uses that little part of the big picture and leaves the rest for the beholder to imagine.
One of my favorite examples is a frame of a building’s frontage while the rest of the neighbourhood is left to viewer’s imagination. This particular example precedes two others series called Monuments and Landscapings which are clearly oriented towards globalization and environment. It put the focus on all the changes globalization to landscapes, out there in cities outskirts. The photography’s sceneries are quite vivid despite no living things appearing displayed in the picture, and that is something characteristic of Couturier’s works. It feels like nature mixed up with human creations resulting in the very mutation of our environment, a topic of great importance nowadays.
Couturier’s earlier series Melting Point used slightly different skill sets and photographic techniques, but focused on many of the same subjects. We now enter the world of industry, with its very own architecture, items, and insights, displaying Toyota’s factory in Valencienne, the new city of Chandigarh in India (created in 1947), the “Giron Building” from La Havana built in the 60’s (and currently in decay) or in Brasilia with the “Superquadra”. In the pictures of Valencienne, the photograph created new combinations of forms, colours, and movements. The photography remains both fluid and dynamic, while time seems caught in certain stillness and things feel as in perpetual hustle. Couturier makes use of digital technologies and software with several layers to shed light on his concept.
Finally, the last series of the exhibition (my favorite actually) unveils pictures taken in Bab el Oued, Algeria, in a housing estate known as the ‘Climat de France’. The estate was built in between 1954 and 1957 by a French architect, Fernand Pouillon. This complex of buildings is a testimony to Algeria’s involvement in the war against France from 1954 to 1962. This is literally a city within another, with more than 50,000 inhabitants.
One can fairly guess that a photographer’s job is to take the perfect shot. That being said, considering Couturier’s artistic manifesto to “cut out” meticulously hand-picked pieces of pictures, his job as a photographer gets a little more complicated. Exceptionally, he composes one frame with all the collected pieces of a set to design a certain view of the said estate. It’s very interesting to go from one picture to another in order to have a full comprehension on how the location has been adapting to men and women’s lifestyle. A series is full of detailed textures and vivid colours, still without out the single human presence on display, which I find brilliant.
If you’re planning to visit Paris soon, I really recommend this very unique exhibition not only for the oeuvres but also for the picture aesthetics. I didn’t mentioned the videos and installation but they are also brilliant. Couturier is a really amazing photograph and artist.
Stéphane Couturier latest exhibition shows at La Maison Européenne Da La Photographie, 5/7 Rue de Fourcy – 75004, Paris, until 17th January 2016.