The enfant terrible of contemporary photography strikes again. He is showing a new series in Paris that reveals his unparalleled love for the living beings, down the weirdest.
An open mouth with a frog inside. An intubated man at a hospital, his face wrapped in twill tape that holds the apparatus in place. The gaping mouth of a toad. As soon as they enter the exhibition, visitors are overwhelmed by the organic dimension of Juergen Teller’s photographs. In the first exhibition room at the Suzanne Tarasieve Gallery in Paris, the photographer included a self-portrait. We see him stretched on his back on the floor, wearing a blue hoody with the EU flag missing a star, and surrounded by peaches and snails, some crawling over him. The artist is playing dead in the middle of an installation reminiscent of a seventeenth-century Dutch still life.
The series on view at the gallery is entitled Leg, snails and peaches (2017). Juergen Teller is having fun with some oversized shelled gastropods crawling around on the floor of a studio and gluttonously devouring peaches. Occasionally, a snail might slither across the photographer’s leg. We can imagine the little mouths watering at this party for diminutive creatures that relish the fruit they’re being given.
Further on, there is an owl whose stunning gaze was captured by the photographer in the middle of a forest. Its black and yellow eyes pierce the viewer with their profound and puzzled expression. Right next to it is a photograph of a patch of forest literally devoured by moss. Juergen Teller titled it Paradise, transporting us into this wooded jungle with a soothing aura. In the adjacent photographs, the actress Béatrice Dalle kisses a tree trunk while the actress Charlotte Rampling sits barefoot holding a fox in her lap while next to her a pair of men’s shoes is stacked on top a trash bin. The photographer, a darling of major fashion houses, composed these astonishing portraits in what seems like an apogee of creative freedom. This is also true of his self-portrait at the center of the exhibition: he is reclining nude in the courtyard of a residential building, holding a bunch of colored balloons against the backdrop of an ivy-covered wall.
Whether it’s in the portraits, the self-portraits, or in the images of the world, Juergen Teller gives the viewer access to a reality overflowing with life. Upstairs, another series catches one’s eye. These are portraits of frogs sauntering over dinner plates; close-ups of deformed legs that look like emaciated arms…; gelatinous bodies, bulging eyes… We are captivated by the strangeness of the animal realm which raises questions about our own condition. This is true, for example, of an amphibian standing upright, its head outside the frame, and whose stomach inevitably brings to mind the photographer’s belly in the nude self-portrait, giving rise to a metaphysical reflection on the connectedness between humans and frogs and toads. Similar thoughts spring to mind at the sight of a wild sow nursing her young, while right next to it the photographer placed a close-up of a woman’s breast; or again a series of photographs in which a woman poses nude, surrounded by images of desert landscapes in Oman, as if in an assertion of a correspondence between human flesh and the rocky surface in a sort of give-and-take that reveals a profound celebration of life.
Jean-Baptiste Gauvin is a journalist, writer, and stage director. He lives and works in Paris.
Juergen Teller, Leg, snails and peaches
Galerie Suzanne Tarasiève
January 13 to March 6, 2018
5 Passage de l’Atlas, Villa Marcel Lods