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Galerie Le Château d’Eau : Thomas Boivin : Belleville


On July 12, as part of Grand Arles, the Galerie du Chateau d’Eau of Toulouse, presents Thomas Boivin. Here is the text written by Christian Caujolle.

Thomas Boivin photographs with affection his neighborhood of Belleville in Paris in the 19th arrondissement. By alternating portraits, landscapes and still lifes, always in black and white, he brings a poetic touch to his work, while moving away from the archetypes of poetic realism of Paris in the 1950s.

For photography enthusiasts, Belleville immediately evokes a book, Belleville Ménilmontant by Willy Ronis, published by Arthaud in 1954 with a preface by Pierre Mac Orlan, sumptuously printed in helio as it should be. This path in a popular Paris  arrondissement of the capital leading from the heights towards the Place de la République and which has always been a land of refuge for many immigrants and a melting pot illustrates well the visual approach which predominated at the time. Playing field for many photographers, starting with Robert Doisneau, Marcel Bovis or René Jacques, it is part of the imagery of a Paris immortalized by a “French school of humanist photography” of the 1950s, viewed today with  much nostalgia than it definitely is not so anymore.

If the district, which was in very poor condition with many unhealthy blocks at the time when the pioneers surveyed it, has been largely renovated, it remains very lively, a space for diversity and a space for possible meetings. This is also proven by the work of Thomas Boivin which we immediately perceive as carried out at the slow pace of a walker in search of encounters, lights, materials, spaces to frame. A walker on the lookout but who does not steal any image, a walker ready for dialogue to try to achieve an often enigmatic portrait, a walker whose camera is the accomplice in dialogue with light.

Thomas Boivin is neither a journalist nor a documentary filmmaker. He paints the portrait of his Belleville in small touches. The one he lives and feels through his daily wanderings and the rituals that are his. It has nothing to do with the tradition of the anecdote that seduced the photographers of the 1950s. We would much more readily compare it to contemporary American photography which confronts reality without worrying about presuppositions of objectivity and which accounts for the – contained – emotion of a moment, of an encounter, the surprise in front of a form, in front of a “little nothing”. The sensual delicacy of the grays of his prints, which he produces himself, makes it possible to share these slightly strange moments that touch and make you dream. The greatest strength of poetry often lies in the fact that it is contained.

Christian Caujolle, artistic advisor


Thomas Boivin : Belleville
July 13 – August 27, 2023
Galerie Le Château d’Eau 
2nd Gallery
1 Pl. Laganne, 31300 Toulouse, France

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