The Toulon public discovers a whole segment of Bernard Plossu’s immense oeuvre never before shown in France. These 135 meticulously selected images are part of a body of work carried out by the photographer from 1976 on, when, following years spent in the desert (the Sahel and the American West), he turned his lens on the Mediterranean never to look back …
Born in 1945 in Vietnam, Bernard Plossu devoted his life to traveling and photographing what he saw. From Mexico, where he shot his now-famous series of images, to Italy, so dear to his heart, and to Le Havre, where he captured the poetry of the city, few regions of the world escaped his cultivated and distanced gaze.
The French photographer does, however, enjoy a privileged relationship with the Mediterranean. This moving expanse, with its raw light and penetrating shadows, has captured his imagination. Likewise, Spain managed to hold him for several years, in a small house in Andalusia still present in his conversations and in his dreams.
The exhibition on view at the Hôtel des Arts in Toulon, an arts center for the Department of the Var, recounts, through 135 images made in Spain, France, Italy, and Greece, Bernard Plossu’s thirty-year-long metaphysical dialog with the Mediterranean region. The exhibition places special emphasis on Bernard Plossu’s relationship with books that have been important in his career, and features some thirty of his publications about the Mediterranean, now mostly out of print. Several videos and events complement the exhibition.
Bernard Plossu’s Mediterranean may be composed of deserted, detached places that one has a hard time deciding whether they are real or imagined, even while they seem familiar. In his photographs, anything can happen: the opposites meet and the weather changes, time stretches indefinitely or even stops for no apparent reason.
While the images may represent travel, rather than an odyssey they seek to capture moments of pause between two actions, between two places or times: moments of transition that sometimes join two worlds or two states of mind.
These confrontations between different worlds, magical strokes of chance valued by the Surrealists, turn these mindscapes into a metaphysical world whose apparent stillness barely covers the power of poetic experience.
Over the years, Bernard Plossu has accumulated, selected, and carefully preserved hundreds of photographs that dialog with painting, literature, or metaphysical photography. The exhibition curator had only to choose among those mysterious journeys those that the uninitiated spectator may safely embark on, as well as a few more dangerous ones for those who wish to explore further.
Shipyards, warehouses, highways, doorways, train cars, factories, seashores, and promenades become passageways that allow us to step through the looking glass.
Clocks stop to catch the breath of time…
Ricardo Vazquez is an exhibition curator. He lives and works in Toulon.
Bernard Plossu, L’heure immobile
May 20 to June 18, 2017
Hôtel des Arts, centre d’art du Département du Var
236 Boulevard Général Leclerc