A painter by training, Guillaume Hébert gradually turned to photography until he made it his medium of choice. In his latest series, Sceneries, the artist uses a singular approach: confronting his photographs to the classical tradition of landscape painting. An unusual combination, whose manufacturing secrets he's agreed to share with us.
In several of your series, you combine photography and painting. Where did this idea come from?
The idea came to me when I was in Taiwan. I was shooting pictures of the skies, and I realized that my images looked a lot like paintings, so I said to myself: "Why not put painting directly in the background?" I found that it worked unbelievably well and I thought the result was rather interesting, with this contrast and this relationship between materials and colors and how it stimulates us visually. I continued doing this with urban spaces, and with the series Sceneries, I explore the remnants of the Arles theater world, where I was once invited as part of the Voies Off festival. Working on the Arles theater series means re-constructing a theater, i.e. a theater set, with what I have on hand.
Can you tell us about your process?
I have a collection of several reproductions of paintings by masters that I've either photographed in museums–obviously these are public domain paintings–or found online. I've chosen painters from the Renaissance to the 19th century, working in the Realism and Naturalism styles. It’s a very broad time period that allows me to compose more easily afterwards because, depending on the approach of the painters, the light, the perspective, the depth of field, I can adapt my background to the photograph.
Your images are bathed in twilight light and devoid of human presence. One gets the impression of seeing a post-apocalyptic world from which man has disappeared and of beholding a dystopian vision.
That's fairly accurate and I realize today—especially when listening to broadcasts on the collapse of the environment, climate change and all those topics—that there is a lot of talk about the Anthropocene and that it's actually something I've been pretty aware of for a while. Indeed, it's a bit like the imprint we leave on the landscape. You might think that men have vanished from it, but there are still traces of our civilization, of a previous civilization, and it is omnipresent.
By Coline Olsina and Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
This portfolio has been selected by the editors of Blind from among submitted proposals.