In the evenings and on weekends, when the employees are not at the printing house founded by his great-grandfather, a gentle silence envelops the idle machines. You can still hear the murmurs of the radio and the hum of a plotter. The photographer Jean-Vincent Simonet puts his latest series together within the walls of the industrial zone of Bourgoin-Jallieu, in Isère. With printers he has known since childhood, he refines his method, seeking ways to go beyond the medium’s limits—some sort of hybridization of photography with painting and sculpture.
“I started to use photography as a primary material to fuel experiments (…) which parallel the use of plastics and the process of printing with inkjet. It is a technique solely based on errors,” explains the artist, who graduated from ECAL in 2014.
In fact, the slice of plastic that he slipped into the plotter to print his images is not calibrated for that. The monitor indicates that the nozzles are clogged, the ink is dribbling on the support, and the photo rendering is far from what is seen in the preview. After taking the picture, a step not particularly appreciated according to the photographer, comes the abnormalities of printing, the more interesting and experimental phase.
“The moment I started to experiment without really knowing what the result was going to be, was also the moment I freed myself from Photoshop,” says the artist who physically intervenes and distorts his images in post-production. The sabotage operation that follows the faulty printing includes: drying with a heat gun, rinsing in a tank filled with black or tap water, “like a kind of brush to choose which areas to rinse most violently.”
The artist’s palette of tools frees him from photographic codes and reproducing images by creating unique pieces. “He is really touching that frontier between painting and photography and questioning what that means. The works that we are presenting at Paris Photo are all unique pieces and we can see in some instances that he is actually intervening with fingerprint marks on the works (…) It’s the most personal project he has ever done,” enthuses curator Holly Roussel. She invited Jean-Vincent Simonet to show his work in the Curiosa sector, dedicated to emerging photography, at Paris Photo.
The “heirloom” series, exhibited by the Sentiment gallery (Zurich), portrays still-life captured in the printing house. The soul of this place manifests itself in the entrails of huge printers, the labels of local cheese, the contents of a dumper or a drawer left open—an exploration with the fragrance of archeology at a time when screens tend to replace paper.
Back in his Parisian studio in the 11th arrondissement, the photographer manipulates large books of saturated images. Each book has the same pictures in different shapes and prints. Therefore, each book is also a unique piece. It is a way of questioning our relationship to the image, or too many of them, and its perception through screens. “I think plenty of artists are turning to hybrids, between sculpture and photography (…) It is complicated to establish new ways of seeing images; that’s why I like making books. Books are always fairly frontal, direct… ‘fleshy’ is a huge yet intimate word.”
This film Young European Photographers, Episode 4: Jean-Vincent (France) was shot in October 2022, in Bourgoin-Jallieu and Paris. It is produced by Blind Magazine and Phantastica Pictures, directed by Charlotte Jean and Quentin Molinié, with music by Thems.