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Photo essay Conceptual

Rien, presque

This minimalist photo project by artist Michel Mazzoni caught my eye on Instagram. The b&w images look simple but unique, combined with the unique pairing of the images and the design of the book, makes this book one of the biggest surprises of the year so far.

cover ‘Rien, presque' photobook

- Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming a photographer, and to doing what you’re doing today?

I am self-taught, I came to do photography through cinema (a time when I saw a lot of independent films made between the 60s and 70s). At some point, I felt a need to create images and that's how I started to do photography. But in the end, I don't really feel like a photographer as one might imagine, but rather like a visual artist who uses photography as a medium in his work. I am an independent artist, living in Brussels for 12 years.

- Can you tell us a bit more about the project ‘Rien, presque’?

Rien, presque is a bit of an extension of my previous works ‘Other Things Visible’ & Duets (made with the artist Adriaan Verwée). With Rien, presque, I went even further into a conceptual and minimalist research. It is a work that sends us back to the public space in which I take fragments of images. We can see the inherent aesthetics of what surrounds us, the infra ordinary and the minimalist sculpture. Based on perceptual exercises, the images show interlockings and artefacts. The content of the series brings together a set of fragmented views of motifs relating to modernity. These images somehow represent demarcations in the urban landscape that function like small installations, generated by human actions. I consider them a bit like catalysts of poetic resistance, a state of things at a given moment, time capsules illuminating the current world.

- Can you tell us a bit more about your process of making the book?

Rien, presque, was produced in collaboration with the publisher MER.B&L in Ghent, the graphics being entrusted to the Luc Derycke studio. This is the third time I have worked with them. It is a publisher who experiments with the possibilities of the artist's book and who each time makes precise and unique proposals. During a first interview, I explain the direction I want to go, we exchange ideas, then I let them move forward on the project. With Rien, presque it was necessary to give meaning to the reading by deciphering the dialect and the phenomena of echoes between the images. We proceeded by a game of editing in order to create a connection between the forms and thus open on a set of combinations, correspondences, even metamorphoses. The graphic designer created visible relationships between images that initially seemed disparate. The proposals they make to me are generally very relevant, in the end, I touch very little on the structure of the book.

- What does photography mean to you?

On a physical and mental level, wandering in urban spaces in search of images has become a basic need. Otherwise, I see "photography" more as an image which means nothing, which resists the violence of information, of communication and rediscovers the pure event of the image as a form of resistance. Photography has an impact for me when you do not perceive the technique. I like what is a little simple, poor, spontaneous, done with few means but with a sense of the frame and the observation. This generally results in poetic and timeless images. I will generalize more by speaking of non-photography, as one could for example speak of non-music for the music of John Cage. Simply art. Also, what is important in my work is the forms of representation, whether at the level of installations in art spaces, or in its editorial forms (book, artist's editions, poster...). I work with devices in order to experiment with games of scales, shapes and supports. The installation allows me to question and expand the possibilities of photography in a constant exploration of the potentials of the material through production techniques, formats and supports.

- Which other photographers, designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

Social networks make it possible to see interesting things happening in current creation, but I would not like to name names and forget others. I am generally more interested in productions coming from artists who work with installations and explore the notions of space. Also the artists who work on the image and who experiment with different forms of representation. Otherwise, I have often had a preference for photographs taken by non-photographers (for example, Robert Smithson, Peter Downsbrough, Ed Rusha, Lewis Baltz, Dash Snow, Christopher Woll, Ellsworth Kelly…).

© Pictures by Michel Mazzoni