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Metroplex – Anne Favret and Patrick Manez

For the past ten years, the work of Anne Favret and Patrick Manez has focused on defining, with great technical precision, through camera photography, the urban territory in all its diversity and complexity by trying to “assemble the visible clues of the heterogeneous space that surrounds us in distinct photographic series”. For each city studied, the photographic approach strategy was defined until now according to the history and topography of the site. Alexandria’s dense and chaotic networks gave rise to black and white prints, the tight framing of the walls of the buildings, while echoing the city’s saturation of space. For Favret and Manez, this method of work guaranteed optimal permeability at the place, while respecting a duty of neutrality. The ideal is to adopt a democratic point of view on the site. The systematic questioning of framing in each series also allowed photographers to avoid the tics that might have been in style. After walking the streets of Alexandria (1992-1994), then those of Rotterdam (1995-2000), Montreuil (1996-2002) and Genoa (2002-2005), the couple of artists left last summer to meet the American West, this time with a medium-format aircraft. From this trip, they brought back a number of photographs that will be presented during their exhibition at L’Atelier Soardi in Nice with previous photographs taken in European cities. This bias is a novelty in the work of Favret and Manez, who had until then always worked on series that examined specific geographical areas, city by city.

Eager not to proceed in a repetitive manner, the photographers also questioned their practice by no longer focusing exclusively on architecture and by starting to work, a few months ago, on images involving individuals in the urban space. For Favret and Manez: “This is a programmatic exhibition: it presents all the societal issues we will be working on in the years to come and reorganizes the work we have done so far in these new perspectives. We needed to take a new look at our production by considering each photograph autonomously and no longer as the only cog in a particular series. We had already used individual images, especially in our series Devices, but the combination of these photographs gave rise to an independent and unique “piece” (diptych or triptych). Today our point has evolved: the series explodes and we free ourselves from the subject. ».

The title of the series, “Metroplex,” echoes the exponential developments in the urban landscape between Dallas and Fort Worth, two areas that eventually joined in a single megalopolis of more than 5 million inhabitants as a result of their mutual expansion. Like this immense geographical area, also known as the acronym DFW, the exhibition at L’Atelier Soardi will bring together views that are sometimes foreign to each other, made in different metropolises during the travels of the duo of artists, which will form a kind of urban continuum. We will thus pass indifferently from Nice, Genoa, Los Angeles and so on, in diverse framings that try to place the individual at the heart of architecture. These images of different nature and scale will not be deliberately captioned to escape the notion of documentary photography. Moreover, they will be mixed, the idea being not to identify the places, but rather to give to see these various territories as a single world closed on itself.

The selected locations show that the photographers have also sought to break down the stereotypes of urban photography by strongly integrating remnants of natural spaces that are reminiscent of landscape photography: “We have definitely come out of the concentric model: centre – the edges of the city – suburbs – natural spaces. Here the borders of the city are being erased, the spaces are becoming porous, the city is found, by the extra urban and vice versa. ». The photographic corpus presented works on a nesting system with views that include very wide landscape structures and closer views that bring precise details, a kind of marker meaning that one is well in an urban space.

The feeling that emerges from this heterogeneous set of photographs is that of a generic city that would be everywhere and nowhere. This strange and familiar no-man’s land sometimes appears as a place of precariousness, sometimes as a place of opulence; sometimes as a space of conflict and as a place of alienation of the individual, sometimes as a space of survival where bodies reinvent their relationship to the world. While the work started here is strongly in line with Street Photography, Favret/Manez nevertheless try to get out of the reportage image and to remove the anecdote to focus on the presence of the body as an integral part of the architecture.

Catherine Macchi 

Pigment prints on rag paper, framed. Various formats.

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Other series of works by Favret and Manez

Recently documented on our website, Favret and Manez works