Audrey Guiraud – A living inspiration.
I know very little. One thing I know: you could live your life seeing only what’s necessary. Either you’ve lived seeing the same things over and over or you haven’t. I’m afraid that when I go all that I’ll see are the things I spent my life forgetting: the numbers of an ATM machine, the concrete of a forgotten highway, the green lights suddenly red. My last memories: one blur of the inconsequential.
That’s my hell. But what if you wouldn’t mind it? What if a flood of inconsequential images is what you want? To be treated with things that do no harm, instead of remembering all the faces you’ll no longer see. Meaning corresponds to what you’ve experienced. That’s perspective, and perspective is why I really want to share Audrey Guiraud’s work.
In seeing one way, you lose all others. Losing the rest isn’t bad. It’s getting closer to what matters to you. To Guiraud, the built environment matters. And her images of them are some of most beautiful I’ve ever seen. From her camera, you’re allowed another perspective. One more way to appreciate the beauty of the simplest elements: line, angle, light and shadow. If, at the end, my last images are these, well, that wouldn’t be too bad. As she says, there are universes in them.
In this interview, Guiraud answers my questions as honestly as I could have hoped for, explains her work in a way that will make you appreciate these images even more, and if you’re tired of my words, you’ll get hers. Hers are better.
Your photographs are some the most thoughtful I’ve ever seen. How did you get your start in photography? How would you describe your work?
I started photography in high school. I worked in a lab. I began with a SLR bought used in a specialized shop. A small Minolta. But that didn’t pleased me. Later, I studied in school of fine arts. I was really interested by architecture, and geometrical works. During this time, I kept the photographs I was taking in a sketchbook for my personal research. I thought it was easy to take photos.
One day, I showed my sketchbook of photographs to Brigitte Bauer, my photography teacher. She found it interesting and pushed me to work on a project on a Jean Nouvel building: Le Nemausus. It was at this time that I became really interested in photography, and I no longer found it easy. I poked my research as far as I could to create work that rethinks architecture. Thanks to Nemausus and thanks to Brigitte.
Were you ever unsure of your talents?
I’m not sure this is a talent. Nothing comes from the grace of god. Okay, for some it happens like that, but I’m not one of those people. And that’s good — in a sense! Well, seriously, it’s mostly a lot of research, it takes a lot of reflection, I’m never sure of myself. I know what I want is different, and since I haven’t arrived at my goals, I work and I work again. And that’s where the picture emerges!
What was your first – very first – childhood memory? Do you think this first visual memory and its emotional pull might have influenced your work?
The first? I don’t know. I have several that come to mind. Moments that I especially liked. I remember when I came back from school my mother took the time to sit with me in the kitchen. We were waiting for my father and my sister to return. We retold our days. There was a bright light crossing the lace curtain. We ate yogurt cake. I loved this light, I loved staring at the light and how it warms my face during winter days. Otherwise, when I think back to when I was a kid, I loved when my father took me to the sites of the houses where he worked.
He was a house painter. His knees and thighs of his white pants were covered with bright colors. I loved getting into the 4L paint cans pounded in the trunk. I loved the smell of fresh paint and the white spirit. I loved to have my back covered with white dust like him and clean brushes! I really had the feeling to share something with him. When people asked me what I wanted to do, I’d say, just like Daddy, to be a painter!
You focus on abstract forms. These forms are usually pulled from built environments. What’s the attraction of abstract forms to you? Why are you interested in photographing the built environment?
I don’t just photograph human constructions. What interests me, particularly, is the way in which man appropriates space: how we define it and how we make ourselves its owner by the form we give it. I photograph our space, and I provide my own definition to our relationship with the elements which are given to us.
You have a keen understanding of light, line, and space. I imagine that you put much thought into pre-production. What’s your first step to planning a shoot, exactly? Do you conceptualize a visual framework before starting?
Before I begin, I abandon myself to a lot of research on the place that I want to photograph. I am interested in the history of the place, the way it was carried out. I am inquiring a lot, and it is often the history of a place that motivates my work on the subject.
Moonbows #3 is one of my favorites. Where was this photograph taken? Could you help us visualize the space around you? It’s a fascinating image.
I took this photograph of the seaside resort of La Grande Motte, in the south of France. It is a city that has been made in 1960 by just one architect: Jean Balladur. This city is labeled: Heritage of the twentieth century. I love this place. I often go there in the winter –not the summer — when the city is almost empty of people.
These constructions influence how I apprehend space and feel it. Furthermore, this architecture is very special: it’s an architecture of holidays! It has been designed to exceed our vision of everyday city experience, and that’s what makes it particularly interesting, not to mention the unique aesthetic offered by a single individual.
There are other scenarios elsewhere, but this city is located in my immediate environment, and I admit that I’m continuing my interest in this town. But I will not always make images, that would be pointless. I still have my equipment with me, but sometimes I wander there and study it again and again. That’s enough to feed me. This photograph represents my vision and the forms of these buildings. It is a universe — I cannot explain more than that.
When out shooting, do you start wide then gradually work your way closer? Or do you immediately start with a tight frame? Which lens do you usually use?
When I’m embarked on a photographic project, I absolutely know what I want. I place constraints that will help me build my project. It’s very important not to disperse. In my architectural photographs, I’m based on simple principles that are quite close to the bases of concrete art.
I deconstruct space to its essence: the basic elements that constitute it and often go unnoticed. For that, I am interested in the place, its history, its architect, and its repercussions on the city and the population.
You also prefer the vertical orientation. Is there any particular reason for this? What does this orientation communicate to you?
Exactly! In my architectural photographs, verticality is very important. When a building is constructed, it is erected. And it is this erection that emerges from the ground to the earth that is important.
The man is standing, it is all about verticality, It’s a relationship with the living. The human being thoughtful, begins to build and rise when it starts to stand on its feet.
What inspires you? Any artists, photographers, ex-lovers? Any last parting words from Audrey Guiraud?
I’m really influenced by artists such as De Stijl group, and the work of people like Kandinsky and Alexander Rodchenko. But also by artists such as Sol Lewitt, Ad Reinhardt, all these conceptual artists of the 60s.
I absolutely love the installation’s artists like Ann Veronica Janssens or even James Turrell, Larry Bell. I appreciate the drawings of artists Tjeerd Alkema and Michael Viala, I say you have to see, they are real masterpieces. After is the architecture, urban planning, what I read, the writings of Françoise Choay for example.
And the environment, the places I surveyed, and a research very important places. There are places which I love back, in all seasons, I’m thinking of the Garabit Viaduct, a construction by Gustave Eiffel he realized just before the Eiffel Tower. The Garabit is a bridge that is almost the twin of Maria Pia in Portugal. You also raised the Grande-Motte, and then there are cities that stand out, buildings which I worked a lot as Nemausus or perfect places where places I never wanted to be photographed: Time Square, where I made a diptych. Cyberspaces, for which I got a creative exchange.
Be sure to check out all of Audrey Guiraud’s work on her website!