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Photo Elysée : Blur, a Photographic History


Directed by curator Pauline Martin, Photo Elysée in Lausanne hosts an intriguing exhibition on blur in photography. A true epic in the history of this medium to be discovered until May 21, 2023.

Have you ever considered a photo as a failure because it was blurred? Or on the contrary, have you ever been moved by the artistic out of focus of a photo? The blur, defect or aesthetic research? If we look at the history of photography, it is both! And even more.

The new exhibition at Photo Elysée in Lausanne brilliantly presents the fuzziness in photography, its values and its different functions over time. A very interesting subject where we discover the expressive power of blurring, from the invention of the medium to our contemporary time. Out of focus is not natural in photography as it is physiologically for our eye, it can result from an error, but also from a deliberate or accidental manipulation. Thus, since the beginning of photography, fuzziness has played different roles: sometimes artistic or technical research, sometimes defect or even accident. Its perception evolves according to the times, the practices and the cultures.

Chronological and thematic, the exhibition classifies these variations into 12 categories, from pictorial fuzziness and pictorialist blurring when photography was to imitate painting, a medium still sacred at the end of the 19th century, to scientific, amateur, commercial and experimental blurring, including motion blurring and film blurring. The fuzziness of modernity and that of contemporary photography close the exhibition, notably through photojournalism and the emergence of “field” cameras such as Leica, whose blurring authenticates the veracity of images taken on the front line, or the appearance of pixels with digital photography.

This journey through the history of photography shows us how fuzziness has always been part of it, and how it invites us to see the world and to capture it. Rich in references, the exhibition brings together 180 photographers including Eugène Atget, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis, William Klein, Thomas Ruff and Sarah Moon. Resonating with the fuzziness of other mediums such as painting and sculpture, the photographic blurring is here the witness of technical and scientific advances, but also a tool of artistic expression and graphic research. Its values have never ceased to be reversed and to succeed one another, giving it a preponderant role in photography.

“Through the different forms it takes (…) the fuzziness tells of this tireless need to grasp through representation a reality that never ceases to escape understanding, to manipulate its appearance, even its matter, in an attempt to say how we see or what we feel – even when it is not seen. Pauline Martin, curator of the exhibition.

In parallel to the exhibition, it is possible to find this epic in a book of the same name co-edited by Photo Elysée and Delpire & Co, previously mentioned here.


Marie Pellicier
March 6, 2023

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