For its 175th issue, the Photo Poche collection invites photography historian Clara Bouveresse to explore a new theme: the bed. This piece of furniture, the essential protagonist of our existence, is much more than a place to rest. A showcase for many desires, the bed has also hosted the last breath of many a soul. It also reveals the social status of its owner, and can carry a political message. This is demonstrated by the many photographers who have taken possession of the bed. This book offers an overview through a selection of sixty images, highlighting the special link that the eighth art has with the bed.
Following a chronological order, each photographer is associated with a shot accompanied by a contextual text. Over the pages, Clara Bouveresse transforms this mirror of society into a history of photography. These bed portraits function both as a universal documentary tool and as a means of artistic expression, or at least as a vehicle for subjectivity. The multiplicity of perspectives offered is as much a reflection on post mortem photography as of more conceptual approaches
The book brings together different eras – from Julia Margaret Cameron, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Claude Cahun to Cindy Sherman, Laia Abril and Alessandra Sanguinetta – and geographies. Although France and the United States are in the limelight, many other countries are represented: Iran (Shadi Ghadirian and Newsha Tavakolian), South Africa (Zanehele Muholi), India (Gauri Gill, Pamela Singh and Ketaki Sheth), Georgia (Natela Grigalashvili), Chile (Paz Errazuriz) and Latvia (Inta Ruka).
This “bedtime story” of photography is, of course, not exhaustive, and reveals a number of favourite subjects, particularly that of women. The vast majority of its members are women photographers, and issues relating to the status of women are a recurring theme. When it becomes political, the bed particularly affects women, whether they are reduced to a reclining body, sometimes lascivious and often objectified by a “male gaze”, or they use the image of the bed to try to redraw the lines of their role.
An unusual proposition, Photographies au saut du lit is an extremely rich anthology, supported by the abundant expertise and captivating pen of Clara Bouveresse. It’s a chance to rediscover the history of photography from a whole new angle: a most welcome horizontality! post-mortem photography as it is of more conceptual approaches.
La photographie au saut du lit
In the Photo Poche collection, n°175
Editions Actes Sud, 2023
Directed by Clara Bouveresse
ISBN : 978-2-330-18286-1
Available in good bookshops and online