Many people have attempted the same shot: a still life with so many personal items in it that it becomes a portrait. Desks, nightstands and home libraries are therefore typical spaces for this kind of exercise, which seeks to reveal an identity, like a visual work of autofiction. At first glance, the photograph is therefore quite banal: using a low-angle frontal shot, Hervé Guibert immortalizes his work table in black and white, gathering all of his personal and mental universe into that space. The composition of the image, on the other hand, and the famously strange sense of intimacy so unique and significant in Guibert’s work, take the image out of the realm of the banal and give it timelessness.
In addition to the diversity of the elements that cover this table, and the many clues there with which to attempt to solve the Guibert enigma, the photography distills a form of mystery, found both in the lighting and in the balance of his composition: a bright and slanted light that splashes over the tools, the typewriter and some of the images, (pages?) thickening––paradoxically––the mystery of the image. Likewise, the disorder among all these objects, which contrasts with the emptiness of a dazzling white page, gives the image an irregular feeling, a sense of something that’s somewhere between too full and too empty.
There is therefore something deeply inexplicable and inexpressible in this Table de travail « fantômes » [“Ghost” Work Table]. The weight of an absence, as the title might suggest, or perhaps the mess and tangle of a tormented soul’s states of mind? The autofiction that the author was so fond of writing seems to be reversed here, to noticeably blur the interpretation of the image. It makes it impossible to guess to what degree it was staged, and only solar strangeness remains.
Hervé Guibert. De l’intime.
Through March 14, 2020
Galerie Les Douches, Paris 10th arrondissement, France