The Real Thing: Photographer Luc Delahaye by Bill Sullivan

Six pictures from "L'Autre" series

Six pictures from “L’Autre” series

A photograph from Delahaye's "Portraits 1" series

A photograph from Delahaye’s “Portraits 1” series

A photograph from Delahaye's "Portraits 1" series

A photograph from Delahaye’s “Portraits 1” series

At around the time Delahaye joined the venerable Magnum photo agency in 1993 he had began to question many of the aspects of his practice of photography. “I had lost my faith in photography and I wanted to understand what it really is about. So I decided to see what would happen when no photographer is there, just the subject and the camera.” His answer to some of his questions was a project called “Portraits/1.” With this project he entered the more idiosyncratic world of contemporary art for the first time. In it he sought to dramatically simplify his practice of taking pictures by removing himself as much as possible from the process. Delahaye randomly asked homeless and destitute Parisians he encountered in the Metro to have their picture taken alone in a photo booth. “They sat in this cramped booth while I was looking away; in the solitude of their experience they were confident in the machine, they knew its power of revelation. Those who have lost everything in life have nothing to hide, they are naked.” The resulting images were pure intensity. Ten of the images were blown-up large and shown in a gallery as well as published in a book.

Delahaye continued this process of attempting to remove himself as much as possible from the act of taking a picture in his next project. For the series “L’Autre,” published as a book in 1999, he attempted to very nearly transform himself into a photo booth. For almost two and a half years, working with a strict protocol, Delahaye secretly photographed his fellow subway riders. Controlling the shutter from his pocket he quietly took each photograph precisely the same way of whoever entered his frame as the doors of the subway came to a close. A photographer whose profession was based on the skill of his movement and his eye, willingly turned himself into a machine that had neither. He said about his protocol that, “it was a type of nihilism, a zero point that I couldn’t do any less than.”

Link | Artnet

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