Mois de la Photo à Paris 2012

Small is beautifull

Commissaire : Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr

Gabriela Morawetz : "Le corps et le souffle" - Galerie Thessa Hérold

Bernard Plossu - Galerie Camera Obscura

"L'oeil de Peter Knapp sur la photographie croate : Boris Cvjetanovic" - Cité intern. des Arts

Capucine Bailly : "Clichés de clichés" - Cosmos Galerie

Moï Ver : "Ci-contre" - Fondation Henri-Cartier Bresson

Jean-Baptiste Sénégas : "Regard animal" - Galerie de l'Hoôtel Lutetia

Philippe Guionie : "Kéraban et Délestage" - Polka Galerie

Hannah Villiger : "Polaroïds" - Centre culturel Suisse

Chrystèle Lerisse : "Small is grandiose" - Galerie Baudoin Lebon

"Small is beautiful part II" (Walker Evans, Grand Central NYC) - Galerie Françoise Paviot

A visit to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon, with its admirable portrait of the Infanta Mariana of Austria, daughter of the Spanish_King Philip IV, painted by Velasquez, provides valuable insights into the question of the format of artworks. Although the painting presents all the qualities of composition, light and boldness we find in the Master's classic court portraits, and although the clothing and settings are similar, its modest size contrasts sharply with that of the Las Meninas, for example, or that of the full-length portrait of the King of Spain.

This begs the question of the purpose of artworks; in fact, the portrait of Mariana was designed to travel from Madrid to Vienna, to introduce the Habsburg family to their Spanish relatives. It was designed to function within the restricted framework of the family circle, whereas official full- length portraits were intended to emphasise the majesty and power of the sovereign.

A comparable situation prevails in photography; in the early years, visiting cards made it possible to keep and carry pictures of loved ones; then as photography evolved from a method of keeping documentary records into an art form, the format of pictures changed substantially for both aesthetic and economic reasons. Over the last twenty years, where large format photographs have come to be referred to in French_as “tableaux”, a number of artists have opted to work with smaller format prints.

There are several reasons for this. The most important is undoubtedly that these artists are sensitive to the 'fidelity' of a contact print that is close to the format of the original camera shot, in all its purity, without cropping and sometimes including awkward imperfections; this also provides a better understanding of the photographer's intentions. Certain areas such as photography with an autobiographical or contemplative slant, work reflecting a poetic approach where sensitivity is fundamental to the work, and working with Polaroid, naturally lend themselves to small format prints such as those one might find in a cabinet of curiosities.

All these approaches clearly have a strong relationship with quotidian 'note-taking', a process resulting in contemporary 'sketches'_which are either works in themselves or suggest works to come, for instance Hannah Villiger's Polaroids. Other pieces, such as Jules Itier's daguerreotypes of China, are constrained by the format of the photographic plate, while contemporary artists like Jean-Baptiste Sénéchas use this constraint as part of their creative approach.

Format also reveals the intended purpose of the prints, and it is very moving to imagine Ilse Bing or Stéphane Duroy carefully arranging their photographs as they worked on the layout of their books.

Other artists, such as Capucine Bailly and Christèle Lérisse, tired_of seeing the world through the prism of large-format photographs, have chosen to express their sensitivity by means of simple, familiar and personal images.

Last but by no means least, intimacy is a key theme in the photography of Masao Yamamoto, Bernard Plossu, Sarah Moon, and recent work_by Véronique Ellena.

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