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20 July 2012

Alain Desvergnes, Landscapes as Portraits / Portraits as Landscapes

For the Jean Renoir of Rules of the Game (1939), the world resembles a theatre where society urges men and women to be part of a spectacle by playing roles in it. As the French nursery rhyme says, they make a fleeting appearance and then they are gone.

It was probably in this frame of mind that I went to photograph William Faulkner’s landscapes in the Mississippi, in order to find there the characters that make appearances in his novels, to sketch the portrait of these figures who’d fascinated me and who I constantly encountered when walking through his lands.

Between reality and fiction, a microcosm of landscapes took shape, which I saw as portraits, as did a microcosm of portraits, which I saw as landscapes. I had imagined them like improvised palimpsests where an image superimposes itself on another to fit in differently so as to flirt or struggle with the original image.

Almost without knowing it, I pursued this research in other sites, Provence, Egypt, Mexico and Canada, as well as on television screens where idols and icons jumble together, project themselves and merge to form the precarious landscapes of our fears, but also of our dreams.

This to and fro between man and his décor has become for me an irreverent way of seeing, like Cézanne who painted, so he said, ‘a woman’s form, a hill’s shoulder’.

Alain Desvergnes


Exhibition venue: Atelier de Mécanique, parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2012.