Bernard Plossu, Rencontres d’Arles 2016
Bernard Plossu’s last official visit to Arles was for a 1987 group show of work by photographers using the Fresson process. At the age of 71, Western Colors is his first solo exhibition.
Rewind: in 1966, Plossu arrived in San Francisco just after spending a little over 12 months in Mexico on a journey of discovery that became the topic of an essential book in the history of photography 13 years later. The 21-year-old longhaired beatnik had a deep desire to experience and live in the American West that had captured his imagination.
As a child in Paris, his father took him to the cinema, where he daydreamed in front of Run of the Arrow, Veracruz and Apache. He was more excited about the Indians than the cowboys. In his eyes, they symbolised revolt, freedom, space and nature—a lost paradise to which he kept returning on hikes or car trips in Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California until 1985, when he definitively returned to France. Armed with a Nikkormat with a single 50-mm lens, Plossu shot his own colour Western, whose protagonists are neither good nor bad but people he met, towns he travelled through, plains he crossed, deserts he walked in and mountains he climbed. It is a very slow feature- length film where he photographs instinctively and his childlike amazement still surprises him. The shots are still, soft and empathically and enthusiastically framed. Plossu is in his element. He not only captures his dreams but breathes life into them. He is part of the grandiose scenery he films to awaken childhood dreams and create adult memories. He shows nothing. He is not a reporter. He constructs no series nor pursues any theme. He breathes, photographs, walks, photographs, drives, photographs. Westerns forever!
Exhibition curator: Stéphane Brasca.
Publication: Western Colors, Éditions Textuel, 2016.
Prints by Atelier Fresson, Savigny-sur-Orge.
Framing by Circad, Paris.
Wallpaper by Central DUPON Images, Paris.
Exhbition venue: Salle Henri-Comte.