Since her magnificent series The Adventures of Guille & Belinda (2009), we have been eagerly awaiting Alessandra Sanguinetti’s next real appearance. Our patience has been rewarded, and the talented Argentinian has emerged from her cocoon of family stories and turned her gaze to beings whose feelings are less accessible to her. They are French and represent modern France, devoid of the commonly exploited traditional stereotypes. They live in Calais, in the vicinity of those who dream of crossing over to England; in Marseille, the ancient subtropical melting pot; or in the French countryside, a world Alessandra Sanguinetti understands well. Whether Arab, white, black, or Asian, young or old, Muslim or Christian, they represent the social diversity of France, a country of widening contrasts between isolated rural communities and increasingly cosmopolitan cities. They also signal other issues France is grappling with. The Aperture Foundation in New York is currently featuring a complex and timely portrait, which coincides with the French presidential elections.
But the exhibition’s message is not political. Despite her affiliation with one of the major news agencies, Alessandra Sanguinetti is apolitical and “adocumentarian.” She is a flâneuse, a dreamer, and a theater buff. “As I moved along the countryside, towns and the cities,” she recounts, “the feeling was a bit like that of being in a moving theatre, with glimpses into the mystery that is everyone we briefly meet or pass by. Small revelations, slight unveilings followed by the curtain coming down as the next act begins.”
Sanguinetti’s new series takes us on an intuitive, lyrical journey along these roads, past 1970s’ housing, bocce ball courts, promenades along the Mediterranean coast, wheat fields, typical farmsteads, horse races, among characters the photographer has captured in keeping with the current trends in the genre.In this dramas a bit more cautious than what she used to play for us. There is less mirth and fewer tears. There is more distance—for one, in terms of control, but also in terms of the omnipresent object. There is also certain honesty, readable in every glance, and revealed through touching everyday moments, so dear to Alessandra Sanguinetti.
In her Preface to the catalog accompanying the exhibition, author Susan Bright wrote: “ ‘Infraordinary.’ This term, drawn from a 1970s essay by French experimental writer Georges Perec, requires that we pay attention to all that is considered neither ordinary nor extraordinary. It demands that we reconsider what is significant and what is not. This is what Alessandra Sanguinetti does in Le Gendarme Sur La Colline. Through her work, a transformation takes place: she assembles a series of fragments and details from a host of different lives, showing us that what can be historic, significant, and revelatory is not the stuff of headlines, but that of the quotidian. The infraordinary becomes the key player in each scene. What is crucial is her manner of injecting the everyday with elements of fairy tales and theater—two ancient methods of storytelling. By seizing on the possibilities of the magical and the promise of performance, she takes familiar and everyday French lives and landscapes and transforms them into notable and even exotic frames, often tinged with fantasy. She evades the grotesque or judgmental in this transformation. What happens instead is a reading of heightened possibility in the minutiae of the everyday.”
Alessandra Sanguinetti, Le Gendarme sur la Colline
Exhibition co-organized by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and the Aperture Foundation
April 27 to June 29, 2017
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10001