Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Paris
Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain Alsace
Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain Pays de Loire
Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain Poitou-Charentes
Musée d'Art contemporain, Strasbourg
Musée des Beaux-arts, Toulon
Musée Rimbaud-Musée de l'Ardenne, Charleville-Mézières
Musée d'art et d'archéologie, Aurillac
Musée Nicéphore Niepce, Chalon-sur-Saône
Musée du nouveau monde, La Rochelle
Musée des Archives, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon
Bibliothèque nationale, Paris
Maison Européenne de la photographie, Paris
Centre régional de la photographie Nord Pas de Calais
Théâtre de la photographie, Nice
Galerie du Château d'eau, Toulouse
Galerie de l'imagerie, Lannion
Galerie du Carré Amelot, La Rochelle
Artothèques d'Angers, Angoulême, Annecy, Grenoble, La Rochelle, La Roche-sur-Yon, Lyon, Nantes,
Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York
Shangai Art Museum, Chine
Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, Slovénie
Musée hongrois de la photographie, Kesckemet, Hongrie
THIERRY GIRARD - L'ARPENTEUR DU MONDE MODERNE
(SURVEYOR OF THE MODERN WORLD)
Thierry Girard is a surveyor. The man who measures, in an etymological sense, lands. For more than thirty years Thierry Girard has taken the measures of the world in its philosophical and poetic dimension. He observes parts of the world; he travels up and down them and photographs them. The narratives of his trips that accompany most of his books, admirably written, take into account his profound affection for the territory, the rural and urban landscape.
Thierry Girard is also an explorer. The man who goes out to discover unknown territories. Looking at the ensemble of the work by Thierry Girard, one remarks that the man hasn't forgotten the tales of expeditions of his youth, to the extent that he's inspired in his photographic approach. One can imagine him deep in the fascinating literature of nineteenth century explorers loaded down with heavy and unwieldy photographic equipment necessary for their journey.
Surveyor and explorer, Thierry Girard strikes out to discover a world in mutation. Attentive and enthusiastic witness, he can decide to set out for the far and stony lands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in order to come back with a very beautiful work by Langlade, Miquelon et Saint-Pierre, crisscross part of modern China with Voyages au pays du réel or carefully compose a pictorial itinerary, inspired by two explorers from the beginning of the nineteenth century who set out for Japan, on the Route du Tôkaidô. But he's also and especially passionate about the regions of France, that one thinks he knows and transcends.
In 1982, the territory of Flanders takes up five months of his life. From this long journey, he brought back a sober and magnificent book, close to the universe of the Americans Walker Evans and Lee Friedlander. "Far Westhoek" takes into account an unexpected reality in the region of Dunkirk. Fascinated by the excessive character of the landscapes that he's crossing, he writes a travel diary from February to June in which the introductory sentence summarizes his work: "When I discover a city or region, what catches my eye first of all before the men, their comportment, their traits, is the nature of the space that surrounds them". "Far Westhoek" relates extreme lighting, the limpidity of northern winters, the gloom of misty and rainy days, empty bus stops and lost ways.
The themes dear to Thierry Girard and the setting for atmospheres of his explorations are laid down.
The operating technique remains the same. If in the beginning, a commission incites him to set out, "elsewhere" becomes for him a real source of inspiration. The man needs physically to be impregnated with the landscape. Armed with his material, he crisscrosses kilometers along the seashores, in the forests, among the villages and the cities.
This surveyor of the real world allows us to see the reality of urban or rural landscapes in which human presence is often absent. All the same when he attacks the portrait with an apparent pictorial approach, one is struck by the spiritual dimension that emanates. That Madonna with child that appeared in Un voyage en Saintonge, vibrating homage to Italian painting and its icons, remains one of its most beautiful representations.
Is it tied to my original attraction for literature and cinema? Is it tied to my first discovery of photography as something printed in so-called photography books (Frank, Resnais, Tony Ray-Jones, Strand, Walker Evans, Bill Brandt, Koudelka, Friedlander...), before becoming interested in photography as a work hung on a wall in the same way as a painting?
Is it because the desire of going away is profoundly part of me body and soul–not under cover as a baroudeur traveler, as an adventurer, as a globe-trotter or as a reporter on a mission, but just the silent traveler who's seeking to catch up with the world? Undoubtedly a little of that, and of even other things the intricacy of which remains mysterious to me, in order to explain my propensity not only to make books, but to imagine my different projects, one after the other, above all as ensembles destined to be published, and thus thought-out and developed in that sense. Even to the degree that, at the dawn of a new work, I've happened to have in mind the layout of a book for which the images hadn't even been made.
In some ways my books are less the catalogue of an exhibition than the matrix for just that. I have conceived for a long time the exhibition as a simple "exploded view" of the book, or as the proposition for a book to come or dreamed of–all the while giving the most importance to the quality of the prints in black and white then in color–before thinking it over as an object in itself taking full part in my artistic intention. Today, I tend to disassociate more and more the book object from the exhibition object: the book can't be the simple catalogue of an exhibition, nor can the latter be reduced to a sort of "best-of" of the book.
Most of my projects are articulated around a problematic of displacement, whether it be a matter of implementing different forms of exploring a territory or, even more frequently, of following the thread of an itinerary for which the argument or reason stems from various considerations. As of 1984, with the project entitled Frontières, I had established a method and a principle for work to which I have more or less since kept: namely, to respect as much as possible in the elaboration of a work, but especially in its reproduction, a principle of geographic and chronological continuity, thus giving priority to the progression, the confrontation of the images, their dialectical tension, and in giving priority de facto to the narrative of the series.
The narrative being understood not as a "history"–unless it's that of my rapport to the world–but as the development of conceptual arguments and esthetical problematics through which the recurrence of a certain number of themes that crossing the countryside or various encounters contribute to nourish.
It appeared to me that if my work were in part known and recognized by the regularity of my publishing production, the specificity of the latter and its scope–notably all the books in black and white that precede La Route du Tôkaidô–were far from being understood and known by everybody. From which stems the proposition of this exhibition that enables one to retrace the coherence of an editorial and photographic course beyond the diversity of the experiences and the evolution of the artistic choices. This selection of ten books (out of twenty which cover approximately twenty-five years of work from 1982 to 2008) is associated with the exhibition of vintage prints, the majority of which are presented in their original format and framing.