Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sébastien Girard's near perfect trilogy

Sébastien Girard's trilogy of near perfect photobooks, under house arrest, desperate cars and nothing but home, deal with the imperfect, disorder, disruption and unease.

Gerry Badger has this to say: Under House Arrest is the third in an ongoing series of self-published books by the Toulouse-based photographer Sébastien Girard. The first, Nothing But Home, dealt with the remodeling of his house. The second, Desperate Cars, examined cars in his neighborhood that had been slightly damaged in some way. One could say they had been “stressed,” because that reflects the anthropomorphic nature of much of Girard’s imagery. Now Girard has turned his attention to the fences and hedges that protect properties. French property-owners value their privacy, thus life in France is often conducted behind walls, fences, doors, and gates (just think of Eugène Atget). In the suburbs, the fence is combined with thick walls of greenery to keep out prying eyes. But Girard regards the hedges (nature) as being fenced in, imprisoned by man (culture), and in his anthropomorphic way sees them as yearning for escape. These must be among photography’s most uneasy plants. They are fierce-looking, certainly, as befits their function, like caged animals straining to escape, reaching out through the bars of their confinement. Like the “desperate” cars he photographed, Girard somehow manages to elicit our sympathy for this greenery. In all three of his books, Girard demonstrates the power of and a fascination with the forensic close-up. I use the term “forensic,” because he utilizes unremitting flash lighting to create the impassive look of a true documentary image, the aesthetic seen in crime or scientific photography, where the photograph is an evidential document of something that has happened. An experiment. A crime. A natural phenomenon. What has actually happened in Girard’s imagery? Nothing, though we are familiar enough with crime photography for these photographs to suggest strongly that something - probably something not very nice - has taken place. But Girard is clever and these pictures are not as harshly forensic as they look, in part the result of the design and sequence of Under House Arrest. The imagery is not quite typological, yet the small differences, between the hedges and also the fences, are important. It’s amazing how these superficial differences help to create not only a narrative flow, but also a sense of character and psychological nuance. Indeed, the whole series demonstrates the expressive potential of moving in close. Sébastien Girard has taken great pains to signal that this is a coordinated series of books. Each is the same size and superbly printed, the designs are similar, although not absolutely identical, and a colored, diagonal pattern runs down each spine, a different color for each volume, as well as for both the ordinary and deluxe editions. Photobook lovers will want this series to grace their bookshelves, and these color-coded books will stand out on them, although the high quality of Girard’s work would surely ensure that in any case.

Work from under house arrest is currently to be seen in the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York, annual group show which closes February 25th. More HERE

You can buy books directly from Sébastien Girard by going to his site HERE

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