CHRISTIAN BRAGG – I WISH TO SEE WHERE THE WINDS MEET
« The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson », Thames & Hudson, 1968. The famed French photographer’s book is offered to Christian Bragg, 19 at the time, by his father, and it sets his mind on becoming a photojournalist. Photography studies soon follow at Salford University, England, and Christian begins to travel. As a young graduate with the beautiful dream of affecting the world by the sole power of his images, he flies to Morocco, Cuba, Israel, Ireland, following opportunities as well as magazine assignments. In Cambodia, in a workshop with the prestigious Seven agency, he meets a legend of the trade, the American photographer James Nachtwey. But doubts begin setting in, and he decides not to follow the same path. How could war or famine photography in this day achieve in having an impact?
Christian remembers Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani’s advertising campaigns. Much younger, he had often seen them at supermarkets, and these large size color photographs intrigued him. They prompted good questions: why am i struck by this white baby in the arms of a black mother ? Paradoxically, advertising photography’s huge audiences can help, if not to change things, at least to initiate a debate. And Christian recalls the perfection of a Kate Moss portrait that he had pinned up in his room when he was 14. It was a Mario Sorrenti portrait, taken when he and the model were a couple, splendidly revealing the «fragility of the beauty» and the intimacy of their relationship. The image, an allegory, served in a now famous Calvin Klein perfume advert. Christian chooses fashion photography and assists many photographers, amongst the best. He learns to work on lights and acquires studio technique with Miles Aldridge and many others. He becomes assistant to Richard Kern, Willy Vanderperre, Craig McDean, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Roe Ethridge, Collier Schorr. Living in Paris in 2011, he spends 6 months at Paolo Roversi’s studio.
During all this time, Christian explores the medium while accumulating a collection of meticulously selected photography books. His library includes Robert Frank, William Eugene Smith, William Eggleston or Paul Graham. And the great photographers from Japan, whom he particularly admires. He does understand this post-war Japanese photography, entirely oriented towards subjectivity, men and personal sentiment. Artist Kiyoshi Suzuki holds a special place in this personal pantheon. Christian derives inspiration from this discrete photographer, who made his self-published albums into full-fledged art pieces, at the center of his artistic life. By associating their love for literature with their dreams and travels, both men have created their own photographic language. Very attached to printing techniques, Christian delights in the old black and white books where photography is sublimated using heliogravure, a lost savoir-faire formerly employed in publishing when high-quality printing was required. Christian very naturally turned to traditional heliogravure when making his first book, this year, “I wish to see where the winds meet”, which for the first time proposes his personal work to readers. This corpus of silver-based black and white photographs constitutes a sensitive and personal journey examining the photographer’s memory and recollections. On a quest for images steeped in poetry, or that pick up snippets from a real world, these piecemeal impressions also give the viewer’s emotions free rein. Entirely handmade, this magnificent publication (27 issues only) is the starting point of our exhibition. In view of always reinterpreting his images, he selected eight photographs for large format lithography on a 1850 press. This technique ensures unmatched longevity and superb image intensity due to the use of very-fine-grain BFK Rives velum paper and deeply pigmented, highly light-resistant printing inks.
Christian Bragg was born in the UK in 1979. He lives and works in Paris.
Dates : July 1st to Aug. 27, 2016
Place : Gallery &co119, Paris