Magazine article Artforum International

Gilles Ehrmann

Magazine article Artforum International

Gilles Ehrmann

Article excerpt

CENTRE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE D'ILE DE FRANCE

Gilles Ehrmann is certainly not an unknown photographer--witness this retrospective, which was first presented at the prestigious "Rencontres internationales de la photographie" in Arles last summer. But it is no exaggeration to call him low profile. During the 1950s and '60s, it is true, he worked for two quality magazines, Architecture d'aujourd'hui (Today's architecture) and Realites, and he does exhibit from time to time, but for some forty years, he has clearly preferred to pursue a personal imperative, a kind o photophilosophical quest that has most often left its traces in the form of books.

In the photographs themselves, this willful transcendence translates into a striking absence of anecdote, an absolute congruence of subject and structure that leaves virtually no place for the details that serve as markers of a particular moment. It is no exaggeration to say that nothing ever moves--time literally stands still. A 1952 self-portrait (the earliest photo in the exhibit shows Ehrmann as an eternal twenty-four-year-old posing on the ruins of a house somewhere in the south of France. His 1958 photo essay on the newly independent Guinea is not a document of revolutionary idealism a la Paul Strand's Ghana.' A African Portrait, 1976, but, like his photo essays on the U.S.S.R. and Europe, an attempt to immortalize ordinary people. Ten years later, Faire un pas (Take step, 1968) would similarly record groups of villagers in Northern India, Afghanistan, and Nepal with the fixity of Italian Renaissance frescoes.

This rhythm of time outside of time is not unrelated to the way that Ehrmann himself works. Les inspires et leurs demeures (The inspired ones and their dwelling places), a study of visionary builders that was published in 1963 with a preface by Andre Breton, took more than five years to put together. …

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