Showcased by the gallery La Forest Divonne at the Paris Art Fair - online until the end of June - Elsa & Johanna have mastered the art of storytelling.
Their photos always picture the two of them, Elsa and Johanna, who first met back in 2014 at the School of Visual Arts in New York. And though their first series is entitled A Couple of Them (2015), it doesn't necessarily mean they're self-portraits. It’s more complex than that. Likewise, behind the apparent simplicity of the "sketches," there lies meticulous staging work in which every detail - clothes, poses, settings, etc.—is the result of careful consideration.
"We make images the way you make a film," says Johanna; "Our goal is to reach a certain truth," adds Elsa. To achieve this, they do more than just take on the role of actress, and portray characters they consider to be "extensions of themselves." Their fake snapshots cleverly mix various elements together: a distilled reality that they observe attentively and soak in, a zest of their personal experience and feelings, as well as inspiration from influences they freely admit to, such as Jeff Wall, René Magritte, and Diane Arbus.
Like their first series, Beyond the shadows—which they started in 2018 and which brings together more than 80 images arranged into three parts—explores the themes of relationships, identity and gender. But this time, the shots are wider and also provide glimpses of the Calgary landscape, and the vertical formats give way to horizontal ones here. The intention remains the same: to trigger our own memory and, thanks to that feeling of "déjà vu," produce a reaction that will in turn awaken our most deeply buried emotions. “To talk about the past, the present and the future. To give people an experience,” concludes Elsa.
By Sophie Bernard