• Jean-Christian BOURCART

The Frenchies

From 1982 to 1992, I photographed a lot of people, French people, in street, during events. Unidentified people, politicians, tourists.

I love those moments when people jump at my presence, grab hold of themselves , contort themselves; ambiguous acts, accidental encounters, the street as a parallel world, strange, comic and dramatic at the same time.

Traffic New York, 1999-2003

There are always traffic jams on Canal Street, where I live. The Americans seem melancholic and resigned, crouched behind the tinted windows of their large sedan. Others on buses or in taxis doze off, struck by the lengthy day. From the sidewalk, I examine them through my powerful telephoto lens. I look at them looking at me, incredulous, stunned like animals caught in the headlights, at night. Some do not move. Others try to turn around, protect themselves with their newspaper, their hand. Some confront my mechanical gaze, thus abandoning their image to a destiny they know nothing about.

I shot the crowd Paris, New York, Shanghai, Phnom Penh, 2009

In underground stations, market or universities entrances, in some of the largest cities in the world, I record human surge.
Hundreds, thousands of faces parade through my viewfinder and I shoot in a blinding burst, my assistants’ flashes revealing expressions of surprise, transforming a continuous flow into an ephemeral painting.

What can we learn from our common adventure, observing relationships between the individual and the crowd, but also from one crowd to another - morphologies, densities, directions, rhythms?

The black sheet New York 2010

Photographing a black photograph. Nothing to see, except reflected elements.
Here, myself, my family, friends. The surface is shiny, its texture transforming, smashing what’s reflected. It is an excess of light that makes it possible to produce an image in this dark sheet that would normally absorb everything.

This black sheet is like our mind, reflecting what happens around us, but all this activity does not interfere with its primordial empty quality.
Images are like thoughts: they seem stable, important but are immaterial. They just come and go.


Jean-Christian BOURCART

I photograph so that I have an excuse for looking. I photograph to grasp what is otherwise inaccessible. I photograph because photography causes less damage than a machine gun. I photograph to forget. My work is a way of looking through a half-open door, revealing a place where stories aren’t articulated or explained but remain secret, affording us the pleasure of discriminating, discovering, imagining.
Over the years, my work has taken various forms, but people have always been the focus of my concern––their activities, the traces they leave behind. Photography has allowed me to remain among them, to be, in Merleau-Ponty’s words, “both seer and seen.”
For years I have been engaged in revealing secret worlds, places that had been rejected outright or were too fleeting to capture our attention. Sometimes I confronted my subject directly, at others I hunted it down, stealing its image. Feelings of transgression, clandestinity, obsession, and movement were often present. And at times primordial loss, the narcissistic wound, the impossible desire of the Other seeped into my field of view. Now, however, I am more interested by the unstable nature of what we call reality. Photography is a marvelous tool for interrogating our presence/absence in the world. It is essential for me to question my practices and recognize the subjectivity of my perspective, as well as the spectacular aspect of the media in which I participate. I am looking for forms of narration that are more personal, interactive, and inclusive, while seeking an ever fragile equilibrium among poetic, psychological, and political perspectives.
Images––as well as sounds and ideas––are unstable objects that multiply and fracture, are transformed and recombined in the immense kaleidoscope we call reality. I am looking for projects that can be expressed in different networks––journalism, cinema, the Web, art galleries, books ––and that participate in the new fluidity and overall decompartmentalization of forms of representation.