• Default
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Red
  • Black
myExtraContent1 (only enabled when style-switcher is on)
myExtraContent2 (only enabled when clock bar is on)
myExtraContent5 (reserved for mega-menu navigation option)
myExtraContent8 (only enabled when header search bar is on)
myExtraContent10 (used for the content of a second sidebar container)

Cervantes is Among Us, The Origin

Edward Weston_Pepper 1930

Edward Weston: Pepper ,1930

In 1856, Gustave Courbet painted The Origin of the World (see below) which is my favorite painting in the whole art history. While there are many Van Gogh and more contemporary painting s that I adore, this painting is my desert island one because of the challenge it implies to the bourgeois vision of the world. I find it utterly modern, and still provocative more than 150 years later. It is also notable that this very realistic painting, especially for its time, came on the heels of the invention of photography in 1837, and it is my belief that we are then witnessing the start of the realists movement that the French poet Charles Baudelaire will incarnate, notably with Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) which will owe him prosecution for indecency by the second Empire later in the 19th Century.

I mention Courbet's painting, as I am talking of "origins" here, and it seems that Courbet's masterpiece, opens the way to sexually explicit art in modern Western art, and therefore to what follows. I understand that posting this painting is controversial, especially in America, and so I will also add something that Adam Gopnik wrote "“… I think the French view of sex and life is essentially right and ought to be universally applicable: Sex with children or by force is wrong, and the rest is just the human comedy, unfolding, as it will. Puritanism is a sin against human nature ...” Adam is obviously talking of the French culture of the 21st Century, not the one of the 19th which it seems that some other countries are stuck into.

Somewhat later in 1930, Edward Weston, the father of photography as an art form, produces the pepper photograph above. It is a sensual study of shape that will mark the history of photography. There is no clear suggestion of anything particular, except for the voluptousness of what until then had only be seen as a mere vegetable.

CervantesIsAmongUs_Jean-Christian Rostagni

Jean-Christian Rostagni: Cervantes is Among Us, 2005

In 2001 we took our first trip to France since I had moved to the U.S. in 1993. The whole family (Trisha and our two daughters, then very young) went along. We visited Denis and his wife Solange in Bonnieux; I was writing then my first article for Photo techniques magazine on Denis. Soon upon our return, I find an eggplant at the market that was clearly reminiscent of Denis's and that surprizing pear. I of course bought the eggplant with the intention of photographing it, and realized that a studio photograph would border plagiarism of Denis' work. So I decided to bring the "subject" in my world, the everyday world, and this is how The Old Bore and the Kid in Me was born during a breakfast at Weaver Street Market with our friends Kelli Dugan and John St Clair.
The child in the background is our daughter Olivia, that Denis had quite charmingly bonded with during our then recent visit. The Old Bore and the Kid in Me inspired me to start a series titled La Nature Humaine which is a collection of photographs of nature metaphoric for human tales, and is in tribute to Denis and through him to Weston.

In october 2005 I saw those mushrooms at Duke Gardens. They were growing under a large oak tree, and that pear photograph of Denis clearly came back to my mind. This photograph though has political implications, as beyond the obvious sexual analogy, it above all wants to be reminiscent of the little guy who is not afraid of the bigger or more powerful ones, or if he is, hedoes not give in to his fears. I see Don Quixote in this mushroom that I hope to be emblematic of the call to stand up for what is right and against the forces of oppression which go back to the origins of society, and have nothing to do with Courbet's painting.

Denis Brihat_Poire-_Pear__-1971

Denis Brihat: Pear ,1971

In the early 50's, my mentor Denis Brihat sees an exhibition of Edward Weston in Paris, falls in love with that approach of photography which he decides to explore himself, in that direction. I will meet Denis in 1977, as one of my professors in the Department of Photography in the University of Sciences, Saint Charles in Marseille, and he will become a major source of inspiration for me. In the 50's Denis had settled in Bonnieux in the Luberon and since then developed there a collection of black and white photographs of vegetal life (fruits, vegetables, herbs, trees) colorized through toning, which means that he essentially photographed vegetal life and transformed it into mineral prints. I consider Denis as the current Edward Weston, as his work presents a clear evolution from Weston, pushing its boundaries.

Denis has always been an avid gardner, and once planted a pear tree, which the first year only produced one pear, the one in the photograph above. This photograph is iconic of Denis's work and was certainly present in my mind when I shot Cervantes is Among Us. Denis Brihat is represented in the U.S. by Nailya Alexander's gallery in New York.