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Bigaignon – Outside the walls : Catherine Balet : Looking for the Masters in Ricardo’s Golden Shoes


In her “Looking for the Masters in Ricardo’s Golden Shoes” series, presented from May 13 to July 15 at La Maison du Regard in Le Havre, artist Catherine Balet pays tribute to the great Masters of photography by revisiting 176 years of its history. With her charismatic interpreter in golden shoes, Ricardo Martinez Paz, Catherine Balet revisited 130 iconic images in order to better understand the photography trends of today and tomorrow.

This tribute is rooted in a more fundamental reflection on the meaning of self-representation and the desire to transcribe a contemporary reality by creating correspondences with the works of the past, always with respect for the author, and thus questioning the notion of memory as a whole. What is the place of memory when the lightning evolution of digital technology and the supremacy of smartphone photography upset the notion of time? This feeling of profusion and frustration invites us to reflect on the lifespan of contemporary image and on the nature of the strength of photographs that have stood the test of time.

The “Looking for the Masters in Ricardo’s Golden Shoes” series begins with a tribute to the first self-portrait, made by Robert Cornélius in 1839 and ends with the latest contemporary photographic trends.

Catherine Balet’s anthropological approach, the rigor and precision she demonstrates, as well as the tenderness and humor that emerge from this work, make this set an absolute must for any photography lover.

“In 2009, on a beautiful summer day, I was inspired by a scene: my friend Ricardo was seated in front of a bun and was wearing a striped t-shirt that day. The reference to a famous portrait of Picasso by Robert Doisneau was essential. By Ricardo’s resemblance to Picasso and by his composition, the scene was disturbing. This vision struck my mind.

Later, in July 2013, during the Rencontres d’Arles festival, I met Ricardo for breakfast. He was wearing his famous t-shirt. I staged it, two croissants in front of him and captured the moment using my iPad. The search for the Masters was a game at first. Our journey during this festival then became the subject of photographic reconstructions, paying homage to the authors of the exhibitions visited. Their publication on Ricardo’s Facebook page aroused such enthusiasm that for me this first initiative took the form of a fundamental questioning of the meaning of self-representation, drawn from the reality of others, and on the large-scale appropriation of images via the Internet.

What had started as a game very quickly became a larger-scale project falling within the logical continuation of my artistic approach: that of transcribing a contemporary reality by creating correspondences with the works of the past and thus questioning the memory concept. What is its place when the lightning evolution of digital technology and the supremacy of smartphone photography disrupt time? At a time when the circulation of the image has accelerated, it is nothing more than an illusion of an image, infinitely reproducible until all trace of its source is lost. This feeling of profusion and frustration invited reflection on the lifespan of the image somewhere between the fleeting and the timeless, between immoderate viewing and random archiving. This awoke in me the desire to reflect on what makes a photograph iconic and to question its essence.

Because in an overflow of pixels, it’s time for fascination with “vintage” prints. Perhaps it simply reflects the questioning of a moment in the face of the digital revolution and translates the uncertainty about the future of photography. This question led me to expand my project to the contemporary evolution of the medium. It is clear that the feeling of nostalgia is at the center of the concerns today and generates a tendency to re-appropriate old images – we embroider, we cut and scratch the paper until the identity disappears.

To make this series, I myself took on the challenge of using the vast and fascinating repertoire offered by advanced image processing technologies. I stubbornly sought to translate the nature of the grain, the complexion of the skin and the substance of the original prints in order to recreate the accuracy of the film’s emulsion, a vector of emotion.

Despite these many questions, I was above all driven by a desire to explore the strength and beauty of iconic photographs and to pay tribute to their authors. Embody them through the artistic complicity of my friend Ricardo, a generous being with luminous skin, who wears golden shoes. These golden shoes cover 176 years of photography history. They embody, symbolically, the mysterious photographic alchemy that has frozen light and emotions on paper in order to make them forever unalterable. »

By Catherine Ballet


La Maison du Regard
Résidence le Blason
9 rue Dumé d’Aplemont
76600 Le Havre
Accès rue Bougainville

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