Views of Galerie VU: French contemporary photo collection comes to Prague

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The largest Paris private photo-gallery - Galerie VU is currently featuring selection of its collections in the Prague Langhans Gallery. What you can see there is work of 28 contemporary photographers from different countries of the world. As the Langhans Gallery spokeswoman Dagmar Cujanova says, it is the first time they decided to present another commercial gallery in their rooms.

"It's the first exhibition which presents a commercial gallery in our space. It is because this gallery is in our opinion very good and it shows very good contemporary photographers. We decided to bring selection of their works to Prague, so that Czech people could see contemporary international photography and also imagine what kind of an institution Galerie VU is."

So what kind of institution is Galerie VU? I asked its artistic director Christian Caujolle.

"It's a big space - it's strange - it doesn't look Parisian but looks more like New York than Paris. It's down in Le Marais near Bastille in the center, we represent about 40 artists."

Do you focus on any sort of photography?

Christian Caujolle, photo: CTK
"Not really. But we try to be absolutely contemporary and to work with people who are asking serious questions about the contemporary world. That means that we don't exhibit things only for esthetic reasons. I am always very careful with the idea of decoration. Because for me it's not contemporary - it's just art for art."

I asked Mr Caujolle to show me some of the photographs in his gallery collections. The very first picture we came across depicted a very peculiar scene - a man wearing pink clothes with a pink shopping trolley standing on a cliff above the sea.

"It's a Thai artist called Manit Sriwanichpoom. He is a very political artist. He is a kind of an activist. He created a figure - Mr. Pink - who is a man wearing very pink suit, he has a pink cardi and also a pink mobile phone. Manit is putting Mr Pink in different situations; the picture we see is from a series where Manit speaks about tourism and the conventions of tourism, so you have Mr Pink and his cardi at the seaside in a beautiful landscape. You can find a sort of absurdity in the picture."

Do you think that this is something typical for contemporary photography, the absurdity in the pictures? On the other picture we see a naked woman with a child bathing in a lake. It looks like it is not just a standard photograph. It looks as if it was made by special technology?

"This is a very special thing. The author is Spanish - her name is Ouka Lele. She is a painter. She shoots in black and white and afterwards she paints her images by colors. Her images are something between real and impossible. She gives you all the time a very strange feeling, but later you realize: this is impossible in reality! She shows that photography is not a testimony of the world, it's not a proof of the world. It's just creating images which are an illusion. But at the same time the images are asking us: is the world real? What are we catching of the reality of the world?"

What kind of photographers do you display here? What kind of nationalities? Where do they all come from?

"A lot of them come from Spain, because we've been working with Spanish artists for a long time, but the others come from Japan, Thailand, New York, Italy, France, Morocco, Sweden....."

There are no Czech photographers exhibited here, are they?

"There is a Slovak - Martin Kolar. But we work from time to time with some Czech photographers like Bohdan Holomicek, Tono Stano.... And we have a project, probably for next year, it will be a big exhibition about Czech photography including even historical things."

One of the photographers on show - Laurence Leblanc from France - also took part in the exhibition opening in Prague. Her works - black and white photographs of children in Cambodia reminded me with their blurred style more of an impressionist painting than a contemporary photograph.

"When I was a child I painted. I've realized now it is something important in my work. I don't like to be in the reality. I like to get rather outside of the reality."

You're saying you don't take pictures in order to record the reality. I can see that a lot of your pictures are actually very blurred. Are they a kind of images from the world of fantasy?

"Yes. My work about the children starts in the moment when the child confronts himself with the world. I realized that in our occidental country these moments disappear because most of the children have computers and have no more contact with their grandfather or grandmother. I discovered Cambodia and I felt strongly that I would like to do something about this country. My goal was to express what I had felt in the country."

What kind of technology do you use? I see that some of the pictures are very blurred. Is it just a standard technology or do you use any special tricks?

"Oh no, I work with an old camera. I make my prints myself. I develop the negative myself. They are both very important for me. Photography is always a choice. I don't know why, but you make different pictures and then in the end you reach something, but in the beginning you actually didn't know you wanted this thing. It's not something what you would think about ahead of time. It just comes like this."

Let's now move to one of your pictures, so you can comment on it.

"I would choose this one. There are two children, the picture is very blurred...It is a picture I took at the very, very end of my trip. For me it is something very representative of Cambodia today. The two children are together, but at the same time they are alone. It is connected with the genocide in Cambodia. This picture is very important for me. It shows something real from the country."

In the Langhans Gallery exhibit you find photographs of different topics, styles, even periods. Some pictures are only from last year, others were taken back in the 1960's. Even if you don't like "absurd" photographs depicting the post-industrial world or fuzzy images playing with the imagination, you still have a chance to find among those 98 pictures on show one that you like.