For more than forty years, the photographer navigates between the infinitely small and the infinitely great, between shadows, dust and traces, in a maze powerfully orchestrated. The shock of environments and temperaments during an enigmatic crossing to see in a monograph published by Éditions Xavier Barral and an exhibition at the Théâtre de la Hill in Paris under the aegis of Wajdi Mouawad.
There is magic in contact with the photographs of Alain Willaume, as if they were able to give rise to shapes and colors within our minds without however giving them to us immediately. In fact, most of the images presented in the beautiful book Coordinates 72/18 as well as the ones he decided to show at the Hill Theater are dotted with a dark hue which gives a dark aspect – not to say lugubrious. But this atmosphere allows the appearance; that is to say that with this obscure envelope the photographer manages to invite us to contemplation and even meditation in front of landscapes or portraits in a strolling free. Alain Willaume is a poet of the upsurge. He knows how to bring the object to consciousness for then drive us straight to the shores of our imagination. Witness this photograph of a horse wrapped in an opaque tablecloth that dilutes it in a night in broad daylight and that the photographer sees as a hymn to a painting by Francis Bacon.
Alain Willaume is also a subtle and silent traveler who knows how to guide us to strange and wandering. He likes to take in photography a certain jumble of the world where stone cathedrals, crowds of silhouettes, deserts only smoke appears in the distance. It erects as a science of taking photographic side, side, margin. At home, the empire of men is very small and ceaselessly the power of the heavens, the indomitable singing of the earth, the rumbling of the waters make us feel and bring us back to our mortal condition. There is this man in St. Petersburg who hesitates to put his foot on the ice that splits into pieces in the Neva River completely frozen. Willaume calls him “hesitant” and one could say that all his photography is there: to seize the moment of change between worlds, between places and times. Because the trip of this member of the Tendance Floue collective is above all a meditative and sensitive crossing in a universe that comes out right with a resolutely unique look.
This look is that of a man who has made contact with photography and gives us his more beautiful aspect: a melancholy and dark wandering that remains in search of stars. Because the purpose Willaume is not pessimistic. Certainly, often, clichés give the idea of a black world, little inhabited by light. But at the same time, as the spectator at the theater invited in a dark room, it can dissect to envy images as well as a chemist its substances in his laboratory. The photographs follow the process of a shadow seeker who wants them to grasp the spaces of light. Few are the pictures in color, but they punctuate the viewer’s journey as a reminder that the color does indeed exist and that it is precisely difficult to fix, because it depends on the movement.
Willaume does not seem to have a plan in mind when he catches something from the world, but he knows how to capture rare, if not unique, moments that form the poetry of his work. There is example this bird that passes between two giant towers in South Korea. “One of the miracles of the photography: I am photographing these buildings that have their heads in the clouds. In my viewfinder, this bird passes. I press the shutter button. It’s a photo. He says in the legend at the end of the book Coordinates 72/18. We understand that the photographic act is at home the affair of a situation found, or rather, of a certain position on the world. This position is, as he himself says to describe a photograph, “indeterminate”, that is to say that the photographer has found a way to float like a cloud in the vast stroll he has made to the world since his beginnings in the 1970s. There, he takes the face of young French soldiers who lead a convoy of tanks in Germany. Here is an open tap and we learn from reading the legend that the water is contaminated. Here again are the huge storage warehouses in the port of Douala at Cameron. Unclassifiable, the photographer is of all terrains, but always with his note to him, his eye that perceives the movement of the world, the spirit of plate tectonics. There, for example, it is a view of a volcano in Indonesia. In the dark and intense magma, perhaps Willaume draws the fundamental energy of his photographs. His work opens with a poem by Henri Michaux. “And the breaths of desire have become complaints. ” With Willaume it’s the opposite. The breath of a complaint becomes an immense desire.
The exhibition “Melancholy of the Hills” takes place at the Theater de la Colline
15, rue Malte-Brun 75020 Paris from January 08, 2019 to December 28, 2019
The book “Coordinates 72/18” is published by Xavier Barral editions, gathering 280 color and black and white photographs, from 1972 to today. Selling price: 49 euros.