Éric Tabuchi / Nelly Monnier, Exposer l’ARN — Luce Lebart, Photographic Tour of France

[Winter 2024]

Photographic Tour of France
By Luce Lebart


Soleil Gris, Éric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier’s exhibition in Arles,1 opened under a blazing sun in the Ground Control industrial site on the edge of the historic city in the Bouches-du-Rhône department. This big hangar, to which attendees to Rencontres d’Arles photography festival rarely return twice because it’s a furnace (due to a lack of air-conditioning), saw its attendance explode: Tabuchi and Monnier achieved the feat of building an exhibition – a photographic tour of France – that was both accessible and comprehensive, both ambitious and popular.

“The grey sky is our sun,” explained Monnier. “It’s our good weather.” For her and Tabuchi, her companion in travel, art, and life, “The grey is the call to take photographs: it’s the sign that it’s time to get on the road.” Gloomy weather and overcast grey skies are, indeed, the ideal time to highlight the subjects that they photograph – here, the built environment and landscapes of France’s hinterlands and countrysides – without interference from the effects of shadows and light. This desire for neutrality has a long history, referring back to documentary and scientific photography and its imaginaries, from the strolling photographer’s backdrop against which thousands of villagers posed, to the colourless backgrounds of forensic portraits, to wall coverings hung around museological or scientific objects to highlight or objectify them, to the skies (also grey) sought by the German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers, like Tabuchi and Monnier, dreaded strong light; they banished from their images any source of distraction – people, clouds, or smoke – and favoured diffuse illumination without marked shadows…

[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 125 – AGGLOMERATIONS ]
[ Complete article, in digital version, available here: Éric Tabuchi / Nelly Monnier, Exposer l’ARN — Luce Lebart, Photographic Tour de France ]