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Institut d’Art Château d’Assas : Martine Fougeron : Summer Time


The franco-american photographer Martine Fougeron drew from her book Nicolas & Adrien. A World with Two Sons published in 2020 by Steidl, scenes at the river, in the forest and in their holiday home. A sensitive and playful masculinity arises between 2005 and 2018 when her children enter a new phase, after their transition from teenagehood. Without breaking with the romanticism of youth, Nicolas and Adrien break down most of the stereotypes and gender fixities of previous generations.

Along with American intimate photographers such as Nan Goldin, Sally Mann or Raymond Meeks, Martine carries a new inclusive and sensitive American dream.

The exhibition consists of two parts. It gathers 17 large-format photographs that depicts the transition from teenagehood to adulthood of her twos sons between 2005 and 2018 and a movie made by Martine Fougeron narrating the arrival of her parents in the Cévennes region in the early 60s, on the hilltop of Esparon, with 16mm films and Kodachromes.

“Framed by a room of photographs and movie film from her family’s archive, the images Martine Fougeron made of her two children and their friends in the Cevennes near Le Vigan have less to do with the domestic turn of contemporary photography and more to do with an expression of place. It is as if the location were the ultimate photographer, producing images of itself from generation to generation, with little deep change. Friends and family members come and go, buildings – fallen to ruin – rise again repaired, life returns to the hamlet and continues on.” Lyle REXER, Critic, Curator, and Faculty, School of Visual Arts, New York. 

“2005-2018, Martine Fougeron sees her teenagers eating, sleeping, dancing at parties with friends, diving into the river, at the museum, Adrien ironing, a holiday love; scenes of daily life which are totally «lost from view » in the usual iconography on adolescence, which is most often desperate, that cries out « what can I do, don’t know what to do ». All the strength of the work is there, in the exposure that braces against the currents of a joyfully cultivated youth, with a solar eroticism and always the sweetness, like an antechamber of the spleen. I said to myself Finally a photographer who frees herself from sociological cliches and single thought. This freedom, this energy, it is due, I believe, to this coming and going of the artist’s life between New York and Europe/France, for a dual culture that besets the gaze.”

“This “family” album escapes ideological determinism, and exhibits a photograph “rich” in a history of art that refuses nothing, touches on fashion photography, on decorative pages, accepts the decisive moment without renouncing the staging, in series where Nicolas & Adrien are at the same time subjects, models, her children, actors, and heroes. And this is what adolescence is, a few years when one is everything and something else altogether, years of formation/deformation, a “totally” photographic moment in a fluidity of aesthetics.

Still, someone has to look at you, ‘enlighten’ you: if it’s a mother it’s good, if it’s an artist it’s beautiful.” Laurent GOUMARRE, Critic and journalist at Artpress, Liberation, Producer of the daily Côté Club on France Inter. His work as an artist is represented by the Alain Gutharc gallery, Paris.


Summertime à Esparon : Synopsis 32 minutes

At the end of the 1950s, a French expat family in New York, spend their summers on the Mediterranean beaches, then, tired of the crowds of vacationers, choose a much more remote and ancestral place. Esparon, a small Cévennes hamlet abandoned since the second World War, is perched on a rock. It becomes for this family, sensitive to beauty and art, a real refuge whose restoration will take several years.

Within this colony, there are Georges Tonnellier and Pierre Fougeron, grandfather and father of the artist photographer Martine Fougeron. Both men practice photography and 16 mm film intensely. Equipped with a Leica and a Beaulieu R16 camera, they capture on the spot, with an incredible sense of the frame, the solar moments of the life of the beings who are dear to them.

Esparon becomes for this family a kind of sanctuary, and through this love of photography the two men transmit their common sensibility and sensuality to Martine who in turn seizes the photographic art and will develop over several decades a setting in images which explores the landscape of adolescence of her two sons, Nicolas and Adrien. The musical theme Summertime by the Gershwin brothers crosses this long family history and gives the film an epic dimension, through four generations.


And Esparon becomes a Rock in the Imaginary

My idea for this Summer Time exhibition is to share a family novel in pictures. Everything takes place during a single season: summer

Everything is concentrated around a single place: the hamlet of Esparon in the Cévennes. Everything is focused on the same age: youth.

But this summertime unfolds, with strength and grace, from the 1950s to the present day.

The Summer Time exhibition is for me a transmission that is anchored in an intimate genealogy.

Esparon is the mountain circus which rises like an amphitheater where characters and landscapes are staged. I look for mysterious tensions between the spontaneous and the mise-en-scène.

Where the imagination lights up.

Martine Fougeron


Martine Fougeron : Summer Time
June 26 – September 17, 2023
Institut d’Art Château d’Assas
11 Rue des Barris
30120 Le Vigan, France

Artist talks
June 30, August 11 from 10 am to 12 pm
September 16 from 3 pm to 4:30 pm 

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