In his biography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Pierre Assouline notes that the photographer felt like a thief when taking shots. In effect, Cartier-Bresson conceived of himself as stealing images away from strangers. This perception reasserts itself when one examines the darkly-textured photographs of Jessica Lange, the American actress, on exhibit this summer in St. Remy de Provence.
The somber photographs depict a world apart; images taken in far flung places that are susceptible to a variety of interpretations. The lack of light in shots of clinging couples evokes a sparseness of emotional space. A solitary sheet-covered figure on a bed in a bare room, the fixed gazes from a window, a silhouette of a figure framed by a doorway all engage you to ask: Is there anything more to reveal?
There is a respite of lightness in shots of a truck transporting camels, or of three perky girls dressed for the night leaning against a pick-up truck which reflects the shadow of the photographer.
Brace yourself for another kind of voyeurism: these bleak images are the flip side of celebrity shots where everyone is prettier and richer than you are and everyone has a lot more of everything than you will ever have. In these photos everyone is less pretty and less rich than you are and you will always have a lot more than they will ever have. If you are one who is hooked on envy of the first sort, take your dose of humility of the second kind.
The event had the feel of a garden party rather than an art opening due to the configuration of the exhibition space which also served as the passageway to the festivities, thus obliging guests to gaze efficiently at the exhibit while gliding toward the music, drinks and eats.
And what drinks and eats they were. A few words of unmuted enthusiasm for the sumptuous colossal tasty spread prepared by the staff of the Hotel Les Ateliers de l’Image. The champagne, as well as the red, white and rosé wines, never stopped flowing. The supreme surprise were plates of sushi — a delightful change of pace from the usual French stuff — that borne one back to Bui Sushi in Malibu and the other sushi bars that dot the Southern California coast. Point of explanation: The Hotel, which offers one room in a tree house, is owned by Japanese interests; ergo, serves sushi.
And there was the gracious and appreciative Jessica Lange: her unretouched looking prettiness bathed in brown and golden tones, the leading lady smile and the bulky sunglasses that are the obligatory markers of that tribe called celebrity.
The exhibition of Jessica Lange’s photographs in St. Remy de Provence runs until Sept 19.
Festival AP’ART: www.festival-apart.org/
L’Hotel Les Ateliers De L’Image: www.hotelphoto.com/