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Alain Desvergnes - Gas Man, Batesville, Mississippi, 1964.

Alain Desvergnes

LANDSCAPES AS PORTRAITS / PORTRAITS AS LANDSCAPES

For the Jean Renoir of Rules of the Game (1939), the world resembles a theatre where society urges men and women to be part of a spectacle by playing roles in it. As the French nursery rhyme says, they make a fleeting appearance and then they are gone.

It was probably in this frame of mind that I went to photograph William Faulkner’s landscapes in the Mississippi, in order to find there the characters that make appearances in his novels, to sketch the portrait of these figures who’d fascinated me and who I constantly encountered when walking through his lands.

Between reality and fiction, a microcosm of landscapes took shape, which I saw as portraits, as did a microcosm of portraits, which I saw as landscapes. I had imagined them like improvised palimpsests where an image superimposes itself on another to fit in differently so as to flirt or struggle with the original image.

Almost without knowing it, I pursued this research in other sites, Provence, Egypt, Mexico and Canada, as well as on television screens where idols and icons jumble together, project themselves and merge to form the precarious landscapes of our fears, but also of our dreams.

This to and fro between man and his décor has become for me an irreverent way of seeing, like Cézanne who painted, so he said, ‘a woman’s form, a hill’s shoulder’.


Alain Desvergnes

Alain Desvergnes

Born in 1931 in the Périgord.

Lives and works in Brittany.


After studies in Journalism and Sociology, Alain Desvergnes, ex-reporter and art critic, lived in North America for 19 years. He worked there from 1963 to 1965, as an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi, working on Faulkner, (Yoknapatawpha, Marval, 1989), then in 1966, at the University of Ottawa, where he created the Department of Visual Arts, and in 1975 as a professor in the department of Social Communications at the Saint Paul University. He returned to France in 1979 to become director of the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles, where he remained until 1982 when, at the request of the French Ministry of Culture, he created the École Nationale de la Photographie at Arles. He remained in this post for 16 years. He has exhibited in many European and American museums and galleries. His photographs are in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France; the Maison Européenne de la Photographie; the Center for Southern Studies, Mississippi; and the Canadian National Film Board.

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