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Interviews with Agénore Thoré

Amiens (in France), the 14th September 2019.

I am going to be deliberately provocative to highlight an aspect of your approach that is sometimes misunderstood by the general public. Photographing forms in order to project one’s imaginary is, after all, an ordinary practice. How is your practice different?
I see two major differences. On the one hand, the general public practice that you are talking about is not a detournement [1]. These are always more or less elements, such as stains, traces, patterns, masses or agglomerates. In other words, elements without a prior function. Therefore, this function cannot be détourned [2] . On the other hand, in my artistic practice, the camera is not used as a mode of recording the real but as a creative mode from the real. In fact, the general public practice you are talking about is a simple recording of forms. It is often the result of an incidental finding, and recording the photograph is only the way to preserve its memory. My imagination does not react to a real form, discovered by chance, of which I would like to preserve a memory. It is quite the opposite. I conceive my artworks first in thoughts. It is only then that I set out in search of the "real" support capable of embodying the work that I have in mind. It is a very long process that forces me to make a lot of research. Then, I develop the technique. Finally, I choose the ideal conditions for my photo shoot. During this shoot, I refine the imaginary result.

Amiens, 28th March, 2015.

Some of your photos remind me more of paintings than pictures. How do you explain that?
There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, my photographic approach induces a transfiguration of the real: I create an imaginary (final photo) from the real (subject photographed). On the other hand, I am interested in photographic techniques capable of expressing the colourist painter I am: I have been a photographer since 2004 and a painter for much longer (1983). This necessarily has a strong impact on my photographic practice.

In practical terms, how do you get such a rendering?
I use many techniques. Often, a single photo mixes several technical processes. In all cases, I use techniques that purify shapes and saturate colours. For example, for my series “Les Picturales” (The Pictorials materials), by varying the shutter speed, I reproduce the trail of a big paint brush (a whitewash); I also calibrate the white balance (yellow-orange), change the angle of view (vertical high-angle shot), increase the blur and rotate the image (horizontal view instead of vertical) to create a very clear distance from the real.

Can we say that in your series “Les Simulacres” (The Simulacra), “Les Picturales” (The Pictorial materials) and “Les Poupées” (Dolls), you paint with a camera?
That is not my first purpose nor what motivates my artistic approach. However, this pictorial dimension is very present in some of my photo series, especially those you cite. Indeed yes, we can say it, however without generalizing this idea to my corpus!

Why paint with photographic materials?
Because the real becomes a material, not a subject; because I have a need for colour and aesthetics, that the traditional techniques in photography are not able to meet; because I get bored photographing reality objectively.

Is photography a second choice or, on the contrary, a choice that suits you better?
Neither a second nor a better choice: I am as much a painter as a photographer. As soon as I had a camera in my hands, I knew I would become a photographer. Likewise, as soon as I got brushes and gouache, I knew I would be a painter. Before being a photographer or a painter, I am a colorist. When I was a child, I already knew it: when I was 10 years old, I remember the pleasure I felt when my parents gave me colored pencils in gorgeous colors. The mere sight of these colours gave me an inexhaustible desire to create.

What difference do you make between photography and painting within your photographic practice?
As a photographer, the real is my material. As a painter, the imaginary is my mode of expression.

Interview by Agénore Thoré, essayist.
Translation by Orlane Robert, Governance Assistant at The UN and The WTO.
Proofreading by Corinne Thouvenin.

[1]  Détournement: It's about reusing something that already exists by giving it a new function, a new purpose or a new message.

[2] Détourned (adjective): from the French “détournement”.

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