From July 11th to 30th, 2023, Etienne Renzo’s series of nature and nude photographs can be seen at Studio 26 in Arles as part of the Rencontres de la Photographie. Here’s a look back at these images, set between sky and land.
Etienne Renzo’s career path and his approach to photography are both unique. A self-taught and ambivalent photographer, he was not predestined to make a career out of it. He started out as a professional photographer, then became a farmer, an airplane pilot and a local councillor. However, he has never given up photography, and today offers us a collection of the most symbolic series of his work, whose fundamental element is the body and nature. Total or partial, Etienne Renzo’s interest in the nude body complements that of the breathing earth, a living entity, far removed from our Western conception of it as a mere inert decoration that can be exploited to the point of desertification. These bodies of Homo sapiens, simple inhabitants of the earth, rediscover through images their lost knowledge of what is as yet unexplored, nourishing its history.
The first series, entitled “Des anges ordinaires” (“Ordinary Angels”), features portraits of men and women levitating in their domestic surroundings or in the midst of nature. The celestial aspect of their postures dialogues with the earthly reality of their backgrounds: a kitchen, a field, a clearing or a forest. This series was inspired in particular by Wim Wenders’ film “Wings of Desire”, which tells the story of an angel who decides to lose his condition as an invisible immortal in order to experience love and desire with a woman. Here, Etienne Renzo turns these models into angels of everyday, ordinary life. “Giving back access to enchantment” is also what motivates him, “I’m always on the lookout for the invisible in the human souls I photograph.”
The second series features portraits of naked shepherdesses with their flocks. A surprising subject that takes on its full meaning in the image, as the human/animal, human/plant and body/nature tandems work in harmony. It’s also a different vision of these women: without clothing, they are no longer seen solely through their craft, their bodies, their femininity and their sensuality, but through their primary reconnection with the natural earth.
If nature and the absence of clothing play a key role in Etienne Renzo’s work, it’s to both anchor and elevate the body to its most primitive role. Having grown up in the 70s, when the emancipation of the female body and sexual liberation gave rise to a completely different way of looking at the world, Renzo’s series reflect today’s need to reappropriate bodies and existing apart.
Etienne Renzo – Ordinary Angels
26 rue Docteur Fanton – 13200 Arles
Exhibition from July 11 to 30, 2023
Open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.