Photo Elysée: Blur, a Photographic History

Photo Elysée in Lausanne is directed by curator Pauline Martin and hosts an exciting exhibition on blurring in photography. A true epic in the history of this medium to be discovered until May 21, 2023.

Have you ever considered a photo a failure because it was blurry? Or on the contrary, have you ever been moved by the artistry out of focus in an image? The blur, the defect or aesthetic research? If we look at the history of photography, it is both! And even more.

The new exhibition at the Photo Elysée in Lausanne brilliantly presents the ambiguity of photography, its values ​​and its various functions over time. A very interesting topic where we discover the expressive power of blur, from the invention of the medium to our present day. Out of focus is not natural in photography, as it is physiological to our eye, it can be due to a mistake, but also from a deliberate or accidental manipulation. Since the beginning of photography, blur has played various roles: sometimes artistic or technical research, sometimes defect or even accident. Its perception evolves according to time, practice and cultures.

Chronologically and thematically, the exhibition classifies these variations into 12 categories, from pictorial obscurity and pictorial blurring, when photography was supposed to imitate painting, a medium still sacred in the late 19th century, to scientific, amateur, commercial and experimental blurring , including motion blur and movie blur. The obscurity of modernity and contemporary photography closes the exhibition, especially through photojournalism and the emergence of “field” cameras like Leica, whose blur authenticates the veracity of images taken on the front line, or the appearance of pixels with digital photography.

This journey through the history of photography shows us how blur has always been a part of it and how it invites us to see the world and capture it. The exhibition is rich in references and brings together 180 photographers, including Eugène Atget, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis, William Klein, Thomas Ruff and Sarah Moon. The photographic blur, which resonates with the obscurity of other media, such as painting and sculpture, is here the witness of technical and scientific progress, but also a tool for artistic expression and graphic research. Its values ​​have never stopped being reversed and succeeding each other, giving it a prominent role in photography.

“Through the various forms it takes (…) the obscurity tells of this indefatigable need to grasp through representation a reality that never ceases to elude understanding, to manipulate its appearance, even its matter, in an attempt to say , how we see or what we feel – even when it is not seen Pauline Martin, curator of the exhibition.

Parallel to the exhibition, it is possible to find this epic in a book of the same name, edited in collaboration with Photo Elysée and Delpire & Co, previously mentioned here.

Mary Pellicier
March 6, 2023

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