Edition 2008



Empire, 2004-2007

Closed on 14 September 2008
"After his water-polo players or his majorettes – not quite alike, not quite distinct – here we have the coolly hieratic parade of his recent European guards." Christian Lacroix

Empire, 2004-2007
With his Portraits photographiques et uniformes, Charles Fréger has since 1999 been drawing up a kind of informal inventory of the outfits that attain acceptance through use by various social groups, be they sportspeople, apprentices, students, the military, or simply peers and friends. It was within this framework that, in 2004, he began the Empire series with the emblematic Royal Grenadier Guards at Wellington Barracks, England. Until 2007, he focused on an anthology of uniforms worn by royal and princes’ guards (in Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, Monaco, etc.), republican guards (in Portugal, France, Greece, San Marino, etc.) and papal guards (in many parts of Europe). This project, in its scope and ambition, marks a culmination in Fréger’s work: what could be more photographic and uniform than this encyclopaedia of military outfits that come to us directly from the battlefields of Napoleonic Europe, whose symbolism evokes the ceremonial dress and protocol of an old order belonging to the 18th and 19th centuries? If Charles Fréger has paid special interest to these uniforms, it is because they represent the quintessence of his work: these are magnificent and prestigious outfits, worn by elite regiments that protected the powerful. An impeccable, sustained protocol governs their presentation; and Fréger’s photographic protocol seems to satisfy the same concern for precision and perfection, yet with poses that also give off a singular echo. Significantly, the artist seeks to compare the symbolism and historical weight conveyed by these outfits with the attitude and poses of the young people whose distinction and singularities inform each portrait. This dialectic, linking protocol with socialisation and ceremonial dress with individuality, finds with Empire – after, notably, Majorettes in 2002, the sumo wrestlers of Rikishi in 2003 and the young actors of the Beijing Opera in 2005 – its full justification, so powerfully does this targeted accumulation of faces, clothes, poses and decors ultimately constitute as many subjective and poetic inventories of our human condition. Didier Mouchel, project manager of the photographic mission – Pôle Image Haute-Normandie.

Prints produced by Central Color.

Exhibition presented at the Atelier de Maintenance, Parc des Ateliers.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture