About Metroplex
– interview with Jean Christophe Nourisson

Metroplex, urban landscape by Anne Favret and Patrick Manez
From the "Metroplex" series, Favret and Manez

On the occasion of their exhibition “Metroplex #1” at Atelier Soardi in 2008, this interview with Jean Christophe Nourisson evoked the main questions that his own work has in common with the research of Anne Favret and Patrick Manez: our urban condition.


Gathered under the title of Metroplex the exhibition you present at the Soardi Gallery presents a set of photographs taken in different cities. How was this exhibition built?


Today we are placed in a bundle of multiple realities (hypermobility/continuous/virtual communication) and our direct relationship to space has weakened significantly. We are continually in and out of these different overlapping physical and abstract dimensions. We propose a representation of urban space that combines these different levels of reality. We have worked by course: subtract to preserve only “marker images” whose combination allows to build a vision of what contemporary urban space is.


By choosing to show images of different cities you accredit the idea of a generic city where the specific would be only a picturesque, is it the contemporary urban condition?


As if we only had a choice between pre-existing images? On the one hand, the generic city stemming from the vision of the “global players” who travel the world, frequenting the same airports and chic neighbourhoods around the world, and on the other a structured urban landscape, recognizable because seen in painting and tourist brochures?

If we were photographing, it is precisely to compensate for this poverty of representation. What interests us is to escape local characteristics in favour of elements constituting urbanity, not to accredit the idea that all cities are alike but rather to affirm that the generic urban is today seized only by fragments.

Martin Scorsese says he recognizes the city in which a film was shot at the height of its sidewalks…


The urban scenes you present are inhabited as if by breaking and entering: garbage bag, tent, scooter, pair of shoes or character are all signs that circulate freely in the image without building a hierarchy, what determines the framing?


The framing is always determined by the center, never by the edges. It’s a way of looking at and recording what we put in place during the long work we did on Montreuil (photo series on the city of Montreuil). We decided to use a room 20 x 25 cm to requalify the pieces of landscape we were photographing.

We want brutal photographs, as if torn from the continuum of reality. The extra information and sensuality given by the large format allow us to have images not very clean, always with slag on the edges, car pieces, etc. We must have some confidence in the power of the image to reject the idea of composition, this is our case.

In the Metroplex exhibition, there are also many medium-format photographs, without foot, by the way, framed in motion. An image always represents more than the sum of the elements that compose it, it is a totality. In this sense, the active part of our intervention lies mainly in our wanderings, our drifts, which allow us to circumscribe the space in which we will find the scene to be photographed. There is therefore always a part of abandonment instead and an active investigation part.


If there is one constant in your work it is perhaps that of a narrow fringe that makes your images distinguish both from documentary style and reportage photography. Can you enlighten me on this?


The space you describe is actually between these two poles and it is on this fringe that contemporary photographers work the most. Let’s say that to go fast, the documentary style is for us a kind of obvious. We have never considered photography in the form of formalism and the only answer to formalist excesses has always been to use photography for its descriptive qualities of analog recording. We are interested in the intrusiveness of the process, but it is never for us to tell a story. We are in the synchronics and not in the diachronic: what we give to see coexists in different places but at the same moment.


Did you feel like you were touching the limits of photographic objectivity and being detached from it?


Photographic objectivity is an illusion just as a photograph can give the illusion of reality. What we think is important is to understand the extent to which objective illusion or illusionist objectivity serves our project. We are not trying to detach ourselves from objectivity, but rather to direct our practice towards a more direct approach, more instantaneous shots that allow us to approach reality and to render it from more varied angles. For us, photography is more an instrument of exploration and in tune with reality than a means of reflecting on the part of objectivity or illusion induced by the image it produces.

The interview was first published in “Exporevue” 2008.

Other texts on the work of Anne Favret and Patrick Manez:

Anne Favret et Patrick Manez, de la série "Plan B". Boulogne #2

– by Sophie Braganti

How to make liveable what so often resembles disorder, neglect and veneer of absurd plans and policies tending to minimize, to reduce the place of the human. Our eyes sort, agency, reorganizes. It invents or reinvents.

read the text"
Metroplex - Anne Favret and Patrick Manez

Urban Prose – by Michel Poivert

The “big city” has been the heroine of modernity for more than a century, the man who travels through it as an anonymous adventurer. But adventure is no longer, by definition, a struggle against the dangers of virgin spaces. Adventure is an exploration of the theatre that man has built around himself. Watching is learned, it must be repeated (…)

read the text"

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