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Damien Bachelot: “We look for photographers who reinvent writing”

Damien Bachelot: “We look for photographers who reinvent writing”

On the occasion of the Salon de la Photo in Paris, the art collectors Florence and Damien Bachelot present selected works from their collection which comprises over 800 photos by some hundred photographers. This is one of the largest private photography collections in France. We talk to Damien Bachelot.

“Leonardo with his Grandfather” Palazzo Padadopoli, Venezia, 2010 © Nan Goldin

What inspired you to present a part of your collection at the Salon de la Photo this year?

We never solicit exhibitions. We have no images for sale and we run no communications campaigns. For a very long time, our collection had little visibility. So why agree to an exhibition at all? We normally decline most invitations. We accept them only if we find the artistic and pedagogical project engaging. This is true of this exhibition. It foregrounds a part of our collection that is not necessarily very well known: contemporary photography. What we are interested in is having someone else’s insight into our collection, in this case, the exhibition curator Simon Edwards. Lastly, this is an opportunity for us to show our collection to a public different from those visiting Paris Photo, which attracts a much wider audience than the Salon de la Photo—namely, people who take a more technical approach to photography. 

“This is an opportunity for us to show our collection to a public different from those visiting Paris Photo.”

What will the visitors to the Salon de la Photo be able to see?

I don’t want to speak for the exhibition curator who really has a carte blanche, but I can give you some examples of the photographs we will feature. First, it must be said that the photographers included in our collection are those who reinvent writing. And that’s very rare. For example, Joel Meyerowitz, Saul Leiter… As it happens, the contemporary portion of our collection includes such photographers as Luc Delahaye, Paul Graham, and the duo Bachelot–Caron.

“Le bruit du monde”, 2010 © Bachelot-Caron

If you were to keep just one photograph in your collection, which would it be?

Among contemporary photographs, I think that I would hold on to a photograph by Luc Delahaye entitled Les Témoins [Witnesses], which is extraordinary. I find there is a spiritual dimension to it. And if I were to choose one among the entire collection, I think that I would have to pick a photograph by Saul Leiter. First, because we had a personal connection toward the end of his life and we would see him during his stays in Paris.

Do you have any future projects involving your collection?

With the historian of photography, Michel Poivert, we have recently established an award recognizing those who make photographic prints, fine art printers. The idea is to acknowledge what I find to be a beautiful connection between the photographers and the printers. The photographer Josef Koudelka, for example, stopped making photos after the death of his printer. The award money totals 10,000 euros and the contest is open to all. 

“Precious Silence”, 2015 © Danielle Van Zadelhoff

Untitled, 2003Courtesy Gallery Filomena Soares © Helena Almeida

“Interior #12”, 2010 Courtesy the artist, Martin Asbaek Gallery & Bruce Silverstein Gallery © Trine Sondergaard

Série “Nantes vue par”, 2013 © Ambroise Tézenas

Interview by Coline Olsina and Jean-Baptiste Gauvin

A contemporary look, in the collection of Florence and Damien Bachelot

From 7 to 11 November 2019

Salon de la Photo, Paris Expo Porte de Versailles 

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