For decades, nature has often been undermined by human beings. This destructive perspective is not pleasant and seems to become a kind of one-way street. Looking and observing, the complexity of nature shows us a substance and an entangled being. Clues show us this evolution and capacity for resilience over time. Man destroys but nature always takes over.
Nature will take over (nature will take over) - exhibition at the Rossignol Cultural Center from Monday September 5 to Sunday October 23, 2022
Alexandre Dulaunoy presents his photographic and sound work on the theme of natural resilience (nature will take over). It creates a universality by removing elements that can specify the period, place or location. Nature takes on a dimension of autonomy and independence in these photographs to ensure this automatic continuity of evolution even with human intervention. He gets lost in abandoned industrial wastelands, exploited forests, polluted sites, extraction quarries in search of evidence. The photographs are there to reveal what we do not see directly. These human traces that are erased by nature over time. These artifacts show the capacity and independence of nature in the face of actions against it.
His work spans on multiple years for searching places where nature took over. These locations include old industrial sides, polluted lands, old quarries or any site where human destroyed, contained or abused nature.
To commit in photography, this has nothing to do about techniques or gears. It's mainly about the photographic culture. But how to learn about photographic culture? Some might say go to a museum. There are some museums dedicated to photography but often exhibitions are temporary and rotating. They show some works but rarely attach the creative process to build a photographic project.
The photographic culture is sometime required to understand the photographic project and visitors can be lost. Luckily, there are very often projects who touch emotion and make it easier to understand a photographic art work.
If you are a photographer or trying to be one, grasping its culture is essential. Over the years, I discovered that photographic books play partially the role of a museum curator. But what kind of books to look at? what are the ones worthy to read? What is the publisher role?
My photographic book collection has been reordered and this gave me the opportunity to see what I consider bringing learning in the culture of photography. First of all, the publisher is not anecdotal. There are many great photographers who had their works minimized in an inappropriate book (e.g. size of the photos, breaking of photos on two pages, condensing works in a single page, using bad typography or even worst, forgetting to ask the photographer to talk/comment about his/her work)
On the difficulty of publishing and especially how to balance text and photos, the work of Wright Morris is key. The difficulty to see photography as an art by itself. The recent publishing of Wright Morris – L’essence du visible by Éditions Xavier Barral is such a great introduction to this duality. The books mentioned in this post are available and not exhausted books.
to achieve harmony you need to master ugliness, ƒ/2.8, 28mm
Years ago, I started to photograph graffiti at large including posters, tags and all the traces left by street artists. The original reason was maybe keeping an archive of this ephemeral art or make visible very small things which are usually unnoticed or considered as vandalism. There is a theory that the existence of street art is bound to photography. The thesis by Anna WaclawekFrom Graffiti to the Street Art Movement: Negotiating Art Worlds, Urban Spaces, and Visual Culture, c. 1970 - 2008 provides an exhaustive research on the topic. Documentarian and photographer such as Henry Chalfant or Martha Cooper made the incredible job to document and archive the history of graffiti. The commitment of such artist is impressive and especially the symbiosis between them and the culture surrounding street art.
Not everything can be theorized in photography. My photographic journey in street art evolved into something I cannot easily define. My eyes are often attracted by the one in tension to disappear or dissolve in the urban space. Those traces who made the life of an artist less sad or brighten the day of the urban wanderers. Maybe those works of art who became so intricated in our environment. We cannot discern those works from their life on a wall. Their existences are bound to the surroundings and to how time is influencing these. This is what I'm looking for. A tension between everything in urban spaces which create a new balance in our life.
Again a small and side comment during a walk disturbed me. It's raining so it's a pity for you doing photography. This posed a question to myself regarding the precondition
of taking pictures. Why restricting yourself to some positive conditions in order to take photographies? Especially when you witness a trace, it's an evidence of your own life.
Retouching, by restricting yourself to good setup while doing photography (e.g. sunny weather, perfect lighting or framing), is loosing a part of the truth inherent to the
trace you want to capture. The picture surface was taken during this rainy walk. The situation (circular effect of the droplets) allows to set the trace in a timeline by
witnessing the rain. A photography is not more readable if you have perfect surroundings or condition but when partial or disturbing elements are there to stress the witnesses.
I will continue to take my camera with me even if the conditions are far from being perfect. My perception of the traces is strongly linked to my capacity to keep the anteriority
If you would like to dig more in the trace topic, the book Photography, Trace, and Trauma by Margaret Iversen (ref) is maybe one of the most sensitive work, I read, on the topic even if I personaly think the Trauma
aspect is just the filter of our mind.
In term of photography, I'm still a big naive photographer. I had this impression that photography still
embraces freedom, the acceptance of unconventional artistic perspective and openness in terms of diversity.
There are many photo groups on Internet and I decided to upload a photography to a group called street photography.
Then something happened, the picture was rejected. Reading the rules, it seems that the definition of street photography
is more strict than expected. Then I decided to wander around various photography groups which are classified as street photography.
What I have seen in these groups with strict rules? A continuous stream of the same thing, a street, some people and that's it.
So there is at least: two kind of definition of street photography. The one which is only a matter of inventory. But the most
interesting one in my eyes is the wandering approach where you only expect the unexpected.
Taking your camera and getting lost, I love this. Each second is the beginning of a new world to photograph and sometime without a street and people.
At the end of the years, it's the time for gifts and especially photography books. As we have to focus in photography, I'll just
list some of my favorite Belgian photographers and some of their books. There are a lot of books published in photography but some
attracted more my eyes... I really enjoyed "Charleroi, il est clair que le gris est noir" by Stephan Vanfleteren. An incredible
vision of Charleroi, a city in the center of the coal basin and strongly hit by the melt down of the industries. Stephan did
an impressive work (with strong black) while touching the viewer with a forceful human perspective to this city. Another interesting book
is the work of Manuel Lauti with Pages Inattendues. A vigorous relationship with people, reading and connecting them with a small extract.
Discussing with strangers in the train this is often an opportunity for a new blog post. The main issue I have with new comers in photography (read people buying a camera), they usually focus on technical aspect and not on the act of photography. But sometime, I have interesting questions and especially this one: "Do you think there is a real difference between taking pictures or videos?"
This question was in my head for the past days... Photography is very different of a video. Photography is the ability to stop time at an instant. To create a new interpretation of an instant and build a new timeline in your surrounding environment. Some still photography is just so intemporal that you cannot even define when it was taken. I feel videography as ensuring a continum where you extend time where you don't keep control of the time like in still photography.
While searching in my archive, I found a series taken in the Virton train station. Every picture is a moment but it looks like a movie. The paradox if you add all the pictures all together, this is like a video which is not.Maybe the impression is linked on how you dream, it seems you have the impression of each steps, these steps are just a moment of our lives.
One year ago, the opportunity of doing an exhibition helps me to experiment something new with photography. In some past exhibition, I
had the impression that some viewers cannot be immersed due to surrounding sounds (e.g. noisy environment or people talking too loud).
The idea was to enrich my artwork with a soundscape supporting the viewers' feelings. The soundscape will be there to limit the
overall noise disruption from the exhibition. The experiment looks fun to do and I try to document my journey to build a soundscape
to support my photographs.
My theme for the exhibition was the train and I already selected a series of photos. Based on this photographic material, I draw some
indicators that could be used as key elements or references for the viewers.
Sounds of train starts (1)
Sounds of train stops (2)
Environmental sounds of train (e.g. doors(3), railways(4), people talking(5), ...)
Vocal announces inside or outside (6)
Having these in mind, I recorded sounds during some trips in various trains or train stations in Belgium. I had the luck to borrow a Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder from a very kind colleague. Recording in public spaces is not so far from photography. The difficulty is the sound framing. Where you need to highlight a specific element in the sound and discard the rest. I was not used to record sounds, so it was pretty new to me. Similarities with the act of photography are interesting, being alone, avoid distracting elements in your frame or record the right instant.
After 3 months of recording raw materials (don't forget to limit level and record in raw WAV/PCM format), I did a selection of the sounds (another similarity with photography 'select or die'). I classify the samples to use in loops and the others which are longer samples. What's the process to create a coherent soundscape for the photo set. I wanted to recall the train atmosphere were you have some kind of monotonous sounds but which shouldn't be boring and tend to be forgot after a certain number of repetitions.
So I started with the loops, this is an art in itself. While listening to the raw materials, I selected some repetitive sound patterns. From the each of the selected repetitive pattern, I cut some seconds that could be repeated to reproduce the original sound patterns of the raw sample. The seconds selected should be clear without distracting noises. Then you can create the loops, tests it (keep the loop playing and listen) and save it (still in raw WAV/PCM format or FLAC). For this process, I used Audacity which is a simple but advanced free software to edit audio samples. The software includes functionality like finding the zero crossing point to have smooth transition in the loops.
After the creation of the audio loops (4 and 4bis), I had long samples with some specific element like doors closing(3), train starting(1) or stopping(2), vocal announces(6). How can I play all these samples sequentially and find an accurate pattern for my photo sets? I tried some audio software to do that but these are often huge and utterly complex to use (e.g. you need to use a graphical user interface to shuffle a list of sample for each experiment). I end up using bash and SoX to do the composition. This approach helps to focus on the content and just write some lines of shell script to create my soundscape.
The whole play script used for the soundscape written in Bash shell and using SoX:
#!/bin/bashlooprepeat="7"fadeout="fade t 0 0 3"LONGSLEEP=40SHORTSLEEP=10VSSLEEP=5while[true]do play BelgianTrainLoopOK2.flac repeat $looprepeat$fadeout; play BelgianTrainAnotherStopOK.flac $fadeout sleep $SHORTSLEEP play BelgianAnnounceBruxelles.flac $fadeout sleep $SHORTSLEEP play BelgianNewLTrainStart.flac $fadeout sleep $SHORTSLEEP play BelgianTrainLoop2.flac repeat $looprepeat$fadeout sleep $SHORTSLEEP play Arlon-to-Marbehan.flac $fadeout sleep $VSSLEEP play BelgianTrainDoorClosing.flac $fadeoutdone
I also did a quick visualization of each samples to find out any glitches or issue that cannot be directly spot by listening. The above script runs during the exhibition and based on the mood of the day, you can change the parameters (time between samples) or the order of the samples.
Not sure if my first experiment is a success but I had interesting feedback during the exhibition. An old lady told me that remembers her when she took the train with her parents. Some where indeed more attentive to the photos or came back when they started to hear the soundscape. And another funny discussion was a guy working at the national train company in Belgium who remembered the exact model of the train.