Franck Gérard, En l’état — Jacques Leenhardt, Franck Gérard’s Photographic Encounters

[Summer 2021]

Par Jacques Leenhardt

“I [the photographer] don’t invent anything. I imagine everything.”
– Brassaï

Containing a “diary” written by Franck Gérard during his wanderings and an avalanche of photographs, En l’état1 is a book that is difficult to classify. This mélange refers to notebooks kept by travellers and characterized by stylistic hybridity. But En l’état also resembles a manifesto, as if Gérard wanted to affirm, by writing and photographing, that he takes himself for neither a writer nor a photographer. Two precarious notions are thus combined here, and Gérard transforms them into a unique and anarchical artistic statement. He is determined, a serious dilettante who would never leave home without his camera. This rule is the consequence of his idea of his art, fully bound within the encounter between the photographer and being-there in the world. He is an outdoor photographer: he strolls around, musing on the coincidences of situations, ever on the look-out. This is his ethic and his poetics. He inhales the urban ambience – which is his true world – seeking out traces left in the city by human lives. As we know, photography never totally escapes the real world, the evidence of which it preserves. And yet, what it shows is only the displaced reflection of this reality, the narrative of a ramble that could be described as dreamlike.

In Gérard’s images, everyday reality is both asserted and fleeting. This is because his imagination – let’s call it photographic work – captures exactly this difference of the real with itself, its separation from itself, its intrinsic strangeness.

In her critique of the surrealistic tendency of photography – which she feels is its essence – Susan Sontag wrote of American photographers that they “are often on the road, overcome with disrespectful wonder at what their country offers in the way of surreal surprises. Moralists and conscienceless despoilers, children and foreigners in their own land, they will get something down that is disappearing.”2 This description coincides quite well with certain aspects of Gérard’s practice. However, he feels no nostalgia with regard to what is disappearing…
Translated by Käthe Roth

[See the printed or digital version of the magazine for the complete article. Available here : Ciel variable 117 – DÉCALÉ]