A feverish red light shines on an androgynous nude body being whipped by a chain that might be a purse strap or a sex toy. To its left, two hands are joined in a gesture of agitated adoration, while another man leans over, reverently, to kiss his right shoulder. With these “stolen” photographs, Jean-Christian Bourcart humanizes the codified industry of sex. He does this by photographing the principal characters without their knowledge. The process is simple: his hand rests on the shutter release hidden in his jacket as he mimics the clients, roaming the hall of brothels, swingers clubs and sex dungeons. His avid vision takes care of the rest. He makes sure to look like he’s in a hurry, having quickly realized that it’s better to look like a pervert than a potential client.
The ubiquitous red light gives the photographs cinematic accents, but the only fiction here exists in the fantasies of his subjects. All About Love reveals the vast universe of desire. Bourcart asks, for example, what suffering could have driven this man to spend his nights crawling on the floor, masturbating, his mouth in search of feet. Above all, he deconstructs the fantastic iconography of prostitution, turning whores into idle Madonnas waiting in their rooms. He captures the details of the wallpaper, the accessories, the bodies and their expressive, disillusioned, fragile, sullen, agitated postures, sometimes distressed.
Bourcart captures this touching intimacy that the clients overlook, preferring the anonymity offered by the realm, which they hope will only last as long as their urges. The honesty becomes an aesthetic element of the work: the honesty of the photographer, who doesn’t hide the mixture of anxiety and excitement he feels in betraying the pornographic and photographic pacts, and the honesty of the bodies which, unaware of his camera, do not pose for it. This is the rule that he made for himself, before confronting other observer/observed interactions. His series revolve around the relationship it imposes between the photographer and his subjects: in Traffic, he pointed them with his intrusive telephoto; in Camden, he got in close contact with them to get a sense of poverty; in The Black Sheet, he captured their reflection, and sometimes his own, in a black surface lit strongly enough to be reflective; in I Shot the Crowd, he immersed himself in the mobs. Each time, he redefines photography.
All about Love
by Jean-Christian Bourcart
Until May 30, 2015
Hôtel Paul Delaroche,
58 rue Saint-Lazare