It’s hot and humid in Laurent Reyes’s images in Canicule [Heat Wave]: we can feel the temperature rising, the bodies sweating, the sea beckoning. The photographer captures his own and his friends’ daily life, “his immediate surroundings.” He opens the work with these words: “Then the weather, the temperature, the air come to a standstill. It’s not at all unpleasant. We sunbathe, we flirt, we get a buzz. I let myself be lulled by familiar humidity. I am drawn to it by a tough love.” Then he adds: “What if nothing happened?”
Bodies stripped naked, spur-of-the-moment swims, evenings that stretch till dawn: Laurent Reyes pictures a carefree world. To immortalize these moments of life, the artist prefers film over digital photos, as he notes on his website: “Without being too technophobic, I prefer to use film whenever I can.” He uses “cameras of different formats, often compact and temperamental, yielding uncertain results.”
The flash goes off too early or too late, it is sometimes defective, light leaks into the film; the images are black–and–white or in color, and the variety of media is such that the unknown becomes the photographer’s leitmotif. “I stray from the guidelines following the mood of the moment and my gut. Surprise rules, with jubilant revelations and images as inconsistent and distressed as our lives.”
Diary entries are interspersed between his photographs. Day after day, we read about one-night stands, his health concerns, and follow him on his travels. We come along without really knowing why or how, but we are drawn to his siren’s song. Jean-Christian Bouyrcart, photographer of intimate subjects, winner of the Nadar Prize, the Niepce Prize, and the Jeu de Paume Prize, sums up Laurent Reyes’s series in an afterword: “It has a slightly trashy, almost punk aesthetic which is an accurate reflection of our age when making beautiful images becomes like an insult to reality, so much lacking in self-reassurance. The power of the composition lies in its suggestiveness and emotionality. … [Laurent] is a twenty-first-century beatnik.”
Laurent Reyes, Canicule, Arnaud Bizalion Editions, 204 pp., €32.