In 2015, the Chinese photographer Zhong Weixing launched a major project: he began systematically taking portraits of great photographers. The collection of these images constitutes an exceptional panorama, a sort of pantheon, but above all a stirring homage to those who labor with passion in order to make photography a major art of our time.
The list of portraits is comprehensive: Yann Arthus-Bertrand, François-Marie Banier, Bruno Barbey, Valérie Belin, Martial Cherrier, J.H. Engström, Bernard Faucon, Robert Frank, Alberto García-Alix, Harry Gruyaert, Françoise Huguier, Dominique Issermann, JR, William Klein, as well as Sarah Moon, Vik Muniz, and Martin Parr.
In 1851, before becoming a photographer, Nadar came up with the project of sketching portraits of the greatest figures of his time, and grouping them in four panoramic layouts, only one of which came out in 1854, bringing together 250 writers and journalists. Thus Panthéon Nadar came to see the light of day.
Zhong Weixing belongs to that distant lineage. Faced with such illustrious predecessors as Sander, Penn, and Avedon, it’s not easy for a contemporary photographer to breathe new life into portraiture as a genre. And yet that is precisely the challenge undertaken by Zhong Weixing.
He works in a studio, and uses a dark background and subdued lighting. He puts himself directly in front of the model, and creates a series of portraits, in black-and-white or color, in which he tries to reveal, not the person behind the persona, but rather the photographer behind the person. After having carefully studied the work of the artist at hand, Zhong Weixing offers us a multifaceted vision and a very personal interpretation.
His portraits emerge as if they were excerpted from the work of the portrayed artist. Some are even made in collaboration with the photographer-model, as in the case of Minkkinen, Bernand Faucon, and ORLAN. This active participation, which gives rise, not to a confrontation, but to a constructive dialog between two photographers, defines what could be termed the creative twinness of Zhong Weixing.
Zhong Weixing, Face à face
November 8 to January 7, 2018
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5/7 Rue de Fourcy