Victor Guerin – For as long as I can remember, I was always the one taking photos of my family and friends at parties and family reunions, using a disposable camera or an old, cheap 35mm. I just wanted to cover the walls of my bedroom, with photos of happy moments and memories.
It wasn’t until 2009 that I really discovered what photography was. At the age of 24, I left France and decided to go and live in Australia for a while. One of the first things that captivated me when I arrived in Australia was the colours, they seemed so much brighter and so far removed from anything I was used to in my home country. Whilst I was traveling, I met a two young photographers who taught me how to use my camera in manual mode, which in turn completely changed my approach to the medium. Discovering that I could play with the settings of my camera (at this time, a digital one), I started to take photos during the night. Experimenting with long exposures I began to see things differently and what I saw was truly exciting. I spent many as nights trying new things, playing with flashlights, teaching myself to create ephemeral photos.
It was than that I decided to become a photographer and to show what I could see or create. Excited by all the work I had created I decided to come back in France to exhibite my work in my home town, Montpellier (South of France). However, as we all well know, life leads us in many unexpected directions, my course changed and I ended up following someone to Normandy which is where I held my first ever solo exhibition, in June of 2010. I kept on practicing and kept on creating new work and by September 2011 I had exhibited eleven series between Rouen, Le Havre and Bansko (Bulgaria).
The next step was to come to Paris, the city of lights, to show my work. After many exhibitions, I needed a changed. I felt as though I was stuck in my old photographic world; a digital, night-time photography no man’s land… And so I decided to leave. In the Summer of 2013 I spent two months in the US with the idea of coming back to Paris to exhibit a new series. I had a strong desire to create something different to show in Paris and little did I know that Paris would end up being the inspiration for the series. It took a trip to the other side of the world to understand that all the inspiration I needed was back home. The series took 17 months, from idea to exhibition. Here is my Parisian creation :
Revealing the Shadows – Portraits of the New Parisians –
“Revealing the Shadows – Portraits of the New Parisians” is a photographic series of 50 portraits that seeks to provide a glimpse into the lives of the foreigners who come to create the face of worldwide cities.
This series is a combination of my personnal experience and the testimony of my Parisian entourage composed of foreigners. I experienced while living abroad the difficulties for a foreigner to integrate into an unknown metropolis, to adapt, to break the language barrier and socialize in an environment reluctant to share. It is through the intimacy of portraits that I wanted to bring the foreigners in Paris out of the shadows. Citizens abroad, but still we created, at certain times, the face of Paris, Melbourne and elsewhere. We appropriate the city to ourselves, but each in our own way becoming like the natives, Parisian, New Yorker or Beijinger…
I went into the privacy of their homes, talked with them about their daily lives, to finally ask them to illustrate their portrait with one word, in the language of their choice, which would summarize best their life in Paris.
This series is composed by 50 silver portraits in black & white, signed with a word in Light- Painting. The word chosen is only readable by the use of mirrors so as to show that even out of the shade, living abroad still requires effort. The technique of chiaroscuro (clair-obscur) was created to emphasize this intimacy half revealed. Out of the shadows, but not totally, the photographic work just shows that they are here, that they exist… it is up to the spectator, Parisian, citizen, to bring them into the light by reaching out for them.
Initially Revealing the Shadows was a silver photographic series of portraits of foreigners living in Paris. But over the photo-shoots, the interactions with my friends, different development ideas have changed the project.
Now Revealing the Shadows includes:
> A photograpic series of 50 silver portraits (21 different nationalities).
> A photographic film presenting the 50 photos in a slideshow and on which each still will have the voice over of the models explaining why they chose their word. When a picture will be visible, we will hear the subject in his native language, explaining his choice of word. (French and English subtitles will be available).
> An art book to provide an opportunity for the subjects to express themselves by writing why they chose their word. Victor Guérin asked to each person to write 5 lines in their native language, which would explain the choice of the word. A French translation will be added, plus an English translation for non-English texts. The book will be released in 2015.
This photographic series was a real challenge because it is my first analog series and above all, my first portraits series. From the beginning taking photos of people was out of the question. No man’s lands allowed me to experiment different technics as long as I wanted and it is why bringing people in my photography wasn’t part of my world. Now that the series is exhibited here in Paris and soon will be traveling in Europe, I am deeply happy that I challenged myself and went out of my comfort zone. [Official website]