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4 July 2013

Jean-Louis Courtinat, The Social Testimony

This exhibition recounts thirty years of commitment to those who live on the margins of our society and who are in the worst position to be able to defend themselves. From the children suffering from cancer at the Institut Curie to the children abandoned in Romanian orphanages, from the homeless in the Nanterre shelter to the elderly in the final stages of their lives, I have always lived with them for a very long time, becoming a fighter sympathetic to their cause, standing alongside them.

My subjects are always subjects at a community level: specific places, enclosed, intimate worlds that I can control and where I can return to frequently. I don’t spread myself out. I settle and stay. I am an emotional kind of person: I need to establish very close bonds with people. I find it impossible to take photographs if I don’t feel totally accepted by the people who will become my subjects. At the beginning, I spend a lot of time talking with people in order to build up their trust. I live with them, but I never conceal my camera because I don’t want to cheat.

I photograph people from very close up. For years, I’ve been working with a single lens, a 28 mm that I always have attached to my camera. This lens allows me to have an ideal distance with my subject. I try to be as discrete as possible and to anticipate as much as I can. I choose my angle and stop moving, stop breathing. I never stage events, people. It sometimes happens that I take portraits, but it is always with the consent of my subjects.

Today, when I look at my images, I wonder if what I recorded is as rich as what I experienced. Did I capture the essential? Is the heart of the matter found in what is shown or not shown? I know that a lot more than photos is required so that these fragile beings no longer have to bear the burden of prejudice and taboos, which make them outcasts forgotten by everyone.

 

Jean-Louis Courtinat

 

Exhibition venue: Atelier de Mécanique, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2013.