Esther Woerdehoff Gallery in Paris currently hosts a show of two amazing photographers, Laurence Demaison and Marc Sommer. Demaison is an established artist, represented by the gallery for 20 years, while Sommer is quite a new discovery, introduced to the gallery by Demaison herself. Demaison and Sommer are both self-thaught photographers who have been exploring the medium for years taking it to the next level, except Sommer has never shown his photographs to the public until now. Finally, Demaison convinced him.
Two different sensibilities. Two disparate styles, both distinctive and instantly recognizable without a doubt. Two different, if not to say, opposite techniques. Yet, Demaison and Sommer share the same experimental approach to photography and the urge to reach beyond surface appearance through it. Both exceptionally inventive, Demaison and Sommer create another appearance. The two see the process of image-making as an opportunity for endless experimentation, a field to explore the complex relationship between photography and visual truth. In this quest they both apply manipulation. However, while Sommer’s photographs are digitally manipulated, in Demaison’s case everything takes place in a darkroom.
Laurence Demaison primarily works with analog photography exploiting all the technical possibilities it offers. By experimenting with long exposures, flash, and the negative, Demaison explores the limits of photography creating intriguing images that show us what the camera can “see” i.e. what the human eye cannot. Demaison’s experiments principally revolve around her own appearance. Most of her photographs are self-portraits. This has been the case for the last 22 years. However, they are not about her. The subject disappears, or more precisely, it transformes into a specter. It becomes one, as Roland Barthes once explained. “Paper phantoms,” as she calls them, represent a whole new appearance beyond the scope of known and expected self-portrait.
However, she’s still there in spite of the new guise, same as Marc Sommer is present in his surrealist photographs although he’s not visible at first glance. The photographer is seen in the very composition he patiently builds refusing the easy use of Photoshop. In Sommer’s paradoxical yet playful photographs everything is made up “with the tools of reality”. For him, photography is a kind of theater, a stage for inventing a new reality in which it is not at all strange to find a rabbit hiding in a cup. Sommer builds his fantasy world from scratch and applies digital manipulation only to further elaborate his absurdist settings. While doing so, Sommer even takes care to leave a few of his tricks visible adding a sense of humor, and irony too, to his wonderland.
No matter how different, Demaison and Sommer share the same conceptual standpoint which sees and treats the medium of photography as a stage for the performance of various actions, technical and compositional, in order to question its relationship to visual truth as well as the viewer’s expectations. If you happen to be in Paris these days, we encourage you to go and see for yourself what a spectacular work they do at Esther Woerdehoff Gallery. The show is definitely worth a visit! It runs till December 19.
© Image Courtesy of Galerie Esther Woerdehoff
© Image Courtesy of Laurence Demaison