Interview #22: Patrice Larchevêque (2021)
Pour lire la version originale de l’entrevue en français, cliquer ici.
Patrice Larcheveque, a former student of the Robert Baudry Atelier and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris, has been practicing photography since his art studies. His taste for large formats first led him to the theater and the spectacle before joining the world of travel within an airline. His collection of Ektachromes from this period having been completely ravaged by mold, he decides to reconstitute a photo heritage in which the dates and places reveal of no importance — only the emotions felt and the sensations experienced matter. His work, inspired by painting and music, focuses on the power of colors, lights and materials, in search of evocative atmospheres where abstraction still plays a preponderant and determining role.
Here’s our interview with him.
LG／When and how has photography entered your life?
PL／Photography came into my life relatively early, around the age of 15. It quickly turned out to be an essential and complementary tool, first in my artistic studies and then in my first professional career, to finally establish itself as a means of expression in its own right. It has long served me to show what I was doing, and ended up becoming the testimony of what I see and feel.
LG／So photography has been a part of your life since adolescence — what about your interest in the abstract world?
PL／I entered the world of the abstract at the same time as photography entered mine: abstraction as a concept and photography as one of the means of implementing it.
My interest in this form of expression was first aroused by my first Plastic Arts teacher at a time when my father, a travel agent in Montparnasse, had as his clients a number of renowned artists from this district. Discovering their work, following their development, and sometimes even meeting and discussing with them, was an enrichment and a real catalyst that accompanied me throughout my studies which had just started.
LG／Were you influenced or marked by any of these encounters? Which artists and what works inspire you?
PL／Who would not be touched by the acquaintance of works and artists such as Armand, César, Corneille, Lapicque, Lindström, Tàpies or even Yankel, who was my teacher at the Beaux-Arts in Paris? But the two painters who influenced me the most, both through their work and through their daily attendance, are Huguette Vaillant-Baudry and René Leidner.
The first, self-taught, had the gift of always finding something interesting and pictorial in our sometimes very mediocre work. About her painting, she liked to paraphrase Mozart, saying: “I put together the colors that love each other”. A great colourist and abstract lyricist, she was never officially my teacher at the workshop headed by her husband, but all the time shared with her in her personal studio or at various exhibitions has been a teaching of great wealth.
The second, a friend of Bissières and Manessier, was my drawing teacher during the same period. We were also neighbors and I often visited him outside of class. Remarkable designer and of a great artistic culture, he had not only “perfect eyes” the way some musicians have perfect pitch, but also an exactitude in verb: in a word or in a gesture, he was able to make us rediscover our own work.
Even if these two people are now missing, their teaching continues to guide my approach and nourish my work.
LG／What is the approach that allows your photographs or yours series to take shape?
PL／I decide to set off to discover a place, whether it’s a location spotted in advance or not, with the aim of finding everything there that seems pictorial to me. During these long solitary walks, I let myself be guided by colors, lights, shapes or materials. When I find what I was looking for, the real trigger for me is the sensation I have when taking the picture, this impression that I am photographing a finished thing, which exists in itself or, as a painter friend would say, something that has always existed! I try to leave little time between the photo-shoot and the treatment in order to stay as close to this initial sensation and to reproduce it as well as possible.
LG／What message or emotion do you want to convey through your photos?
PL／I do not claim to convey any message through my photos. I’m not trying to see the world in a different way or to confuse the viewer of what my pictures mean; I just want to expose what I’m seeing: simple, ordinary things that we don’t always pay attention to; and I hope, through those photographs, to give them an opportunity to take revenge on more obvious forms of beauty.
As for the emotions, I am always open and very attentive to those that spectators can feel, because it is the very cradle of the meeting between an author and its public. When an image speaks to you, it establishes the essential dialogue between these two parts that allows a work to really exist.
LG／Can you explain what your Instagram profile photo means to you. Why did you choose a cloud?
PL／I believe that I have always photographed the sky and the clouds with the same passion. The sky has taught me a lot: to foresee the evolution of its manifestations, to anticipate its sometimes fleeting lights, to focus on the details of its fertile imagination. I know that a number of professional photographers regard clouds quite pejoratively as an amateur subject. In this regard, it should be recalled what Charlie Chaplin had said: “That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.” The sky and its clouds teach observation, patience and humility… as long as we remain faithful to it, in particular avoiding the sirens of saturation and the aberrations of certain outrageous post-treatments of which it has no need for.
LG／How do you explain the predominance of pastel tones in your photographic work?
PL／I have never been able to directly use the colors that come out of the tube. Saturated, raw or noisy, they carry with them an obviousness with which it is easy to impress. Just like in music, it is easy and within everyone’s reach to play loudly, to make noise, and a wrong note in an orchestral tutti will likely go unnoticed. On the other hand, the slightest approximation of accuracy in the adagio of a string quartet will be noticed, because it is much more difficult to play pianissimo. The pastel tones, more subtle, invite you to pay attention, just as certain music obliges you to listen carefully to perceive its nuances.
In black and white photography, for example, these two values are opposites: white, the theoretical meeting of all the colors of light, and black, the absence of color and therefore of light… but the true charm operates thanks to the incredible palette of grays. The old painters had a technique to darken a color without artificially resorting to black, which distorts it: they used its complementary color in transparency to create natural shadows.
LG／If you had to liken your approach as a photography artist to a quote, which one would it be and why?
PL／There are many quotes on photography as well as painting. Often inspiring, funny or heartwarming, they all hold a small part of the truth, as long as they are placed in the context intended by their author.
The following two people inspire me with deep respect and admiration. I really like, for example, this phrase from Ruth Bernard: “if you are not willing to see more than is visible, you won’t see anything.”. She was interested in “the little things that no one sees, that no one thinks of value” to use her own words.
Among all these quotes, the one that seems to me to come closest to my modest approach is this sentence from Paul Klee: “photography does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible “. For me, these words set a foundation, because no matter what your style, category, theme, or subject in photography is, they remain true — they have universal significance.
Patrice Larcheveque, a former student of the Robert Baudry Atelier and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris, has been practicing photography since his art studies. His taste for large formats first led him to the theater and the spectacle before joining the world of travel within an airline. His collection of Ektachromes from this period having been completely ravaged by mold, he decides to reconstitute a photo heritage in which the dates and places reveal of no importance — only the emotions felt and the sensations experienced matter.
His work, inspired by painting and music, focuses on the power of colors, lights and materials, in search of evocative atmospheres where abstraction still plays a preponderant and determining role.
Interview by Laura Galinier.