Kraczevo – Anne Lefebvre at ZDB, in conversation with Sérgio Mah and Natxo Checa
A French-born contemporary photographer, graduated in painting from École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and in photography from Parsons School, Anne Lefebvre considers the photographic negative the very starting point and works photography based on the error of processing it, in a poetic effort blatantly clear in the experimental character of her work. Invited by Natxo Checa, Sérgio Mah talks with the artist at Galeria ZDB, currently exhibiting Kraczevo.
Sérgio Mah – Anne, your work is quite peculiar and unclassifiable. Your base is photography, with a fragmentary character, and with different supports and dimensions. How does the plastic and pictorial nature emerge in your work?
Anne Lefebvre – I start by photographing what spikes my interest: that can be an object, a moment or an action. The most important phase of the work happens in the lab, where the negative is the centrepiece. During the enlargement process, trial and error experiences arise, seeking a different result from the previous one, in an encounter between several phenomena of the photographic processing on white paper, where the appearance of an image is blocked, enlarged, repeated, superimposed, among others.
SM – We can notice a constant attention to tiny objects, debris and loose elements, in a deterioration that adds impurity to the images. The 20s vanguards, such as the Surrealist, Dadaist and Bauhaus movements, were also interested in the experimental side of photography. They did not reject reproduction but attempted to reach the productive character of photography, as noted by Moholy-Nagy, where the experience provided new relationships and discursive possibilities. Do you think your work contains a sense of discomfort with the world? Something like desolation or discomfort in a constant quest?
AL – The choice of grey is intentional, rather than a clear and contrasting image between white and black. Joseph Beuys argued that l’espoir je n’ai pas besoin (I don’t need hope). I try to revive the adolescent freedom that I experienced in Lisbon, to listen to the present. The process also has tougher days and the work shows that too.
SM – There is no joy in your work, but, nonetheless, it’s neither sad nor depressing. It comes from a sense of discomfort. It doesn’t resort to the canonical method of photography, where the subject portrayed and faithful reproduction are the pivotal points. You shoot the day-to-day life. Is the photographic choice something pre-made or is it always casual?
AL – Both are valid. I start with mundane, static objects, but I also have a specific idea sometimes. Instinct is always what decides its development. I have friends who have posed for me. The best photos emerge when they get tired.
SM – The body of the work may not clearly disclose its theme or relation to the world. However, in your work with the images, the feeling of oddness seems interesting to me. How do you work those images?
AL – The absurd interests me. The explanation of my pieces is something that appears later. To me, painting is a subtle translation. Photography is a direct act.
Natxo Checa – In this exhibition, there is no quest for a narrative, only the intention to create a formal exercise, unified by the pink tone of the walls, reference to one of the works that are born from the enlargement conducted at a temperature that exceeds the recommended.
SM – Photographie plasticienne, a French expression that relates to photographic images subjected to plastic intervention, as a reaction and contradiction to photography’s canonical realism, thus underlining its experimental character and challenging its limits. The image is charged with the main task, the photography is secondary. How does this process occur?
AL – When I approach a negative, I immediately feel the need to make an overlap or some other action, associated with some material support and size. The process consists of moving from a photograph to an outcome. The result is the most important, regardless of the steps involved, until the support stops reacting.
SM – Does this exhibition contain any images taken, printed and exhibited?
AL – Yes, it was taken in Portugal.
NC – The construction of the image reaches the limits of experimentalism; it’s not associated with abstraction. Each enlargement is a different work.
AL – Yes, if we consider each manual intervention a unique piece. Nevertheless, each negative doesn’t correspond only to one work. I always do two different tests: I repeat the reason, but I conduct a different intervention. I don’t like repetition.
Audience – What narrative do you associate with each image?
AL – There are always stories, as they emerge from encounters between friends, family, etc. Coming back to ZDB is a pleasure. I know this place since I lived in Lisbon, it’s ironic. It’s a time travel, in a circular, curious and interesting fashion.
Joana Jordão – Don’t you ever work on the negative, do you only do it on paper?
AL – I once bought old films to shoot a ballerina. When I processed them, they simply came out white. To retrieve these images, I relied on chemicals that are banned today – that’s the only time I’ve worked the negative. I never crossed out a negative.
Kraczevo, from Anne Lefebvre, an experimental photography exhibition, can be visited until September 12, 2019, at Galeria ZDB.