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L’Enfant Sauvage : Michael Ackerman : Smoke


L’Enfant Sauvage presents Smoke, which is Michael Ackerman‘s most recent book, published by Éditions de L’Axolotl.

Smoke is a tribute to Benjamin, singer, poet and figure of the American underground, and to Cabbageton, an underprivileged neighborhood of Atlanta.

This exhibition combines photographs by Michael Ackerman, pages of Benjamin’s notes as well as texts by Jem Cohen and Patti Smith. It reveals the infinite grace, the urgency, the delicacy and the frenzy of a forgotten man and era.

“I remember my first time at Benjamin’s, my first time in Atlanta.

It was late at night, after a Smoke concert. He was hanging out with a few friends in his room, talking, laughing, smoking. I barely knew him. I still don’t understand why I was invited. He was brilliant, charismatic, funny and tender. I sat in the corner, amazed and intimidated, and remained silent. Maybe I took a few photos, maybe not. Around 4 a.m., I fell asleep on the floor in another room. A few hours later, I woke up, looked in his room and saw him asleep, also on the floor in front of his bed. Today, 27 years later, I try to remember what it felt like to see him lying there, so fragile. I took a photo at the time, picked him up and carried him to his bed, then walked out into the daylight to check out Cabbagetown.” – Michael Ackerman

 The box gallery and L’Enfant Sauvage have joined forces for this exhibition by Michael Ackerman, the first in Belgium during the Photo Brussels Festival.


Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Michael Ackerman spent his childhood and youth in the USA, where his family emigrated in 1974. He now lives in Berlin.

From his first exhibition, in 1999, he established himself at the helm of a new, radical and singular writing. His approach to Benares, brought together under the title End Time City, broke with all exoticism, all attempts at description, all anecdotes, to question time and death with a freedom that allowed him to move from the panoramic the use of which he renewed, to square or rectangle pictures. In black and white, with a permanent risk-taking which led him to explore impossible lights, he let the grain explode to impose enigmatic and significant visions. That he strives to keep track of the last moments of Time Square inhabited by lost people or prostitutes or whether it preserves, in Poland or Italy, the memory of visions of light and strange characters, it always establishes a world in decay, floating, on the edge of the abyss.

The tone is dark, the images enigmatic and tense, time both suspended and out of balance, the world is racked by a dull pain, a permanent unease. In fact, Michael Ackerman searches for and finds  in the world he travels through, the parallel of his personal unease, his permanent doubts, his own anxieties. He admits it, discreetly, by regularly taking self-portraits, which have nothing narcissistic about them, but which say that he knows he belongs to this universe which is going badly.

Christian Caujolle, in Agence VU’ Galerie, Pocket Photo n°107, Actes Sud, 2006


Michael Ackerman : Smoke
Until March 10, 2024
L’Enfant Sauvage
Rue de l’Enseignement 23
1000 Bruxelles – Belgique

Workshop with Michael Ackerman 
March 2 and 3, 2024

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