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An old western. A guy is being chased by another guy. He is running in the woods and knows that the other is out to get him. After a while, with the chaser on his heels, the fugitive starts covering up his tracks, pressing on while covering his tracks.
This scene is in several books, in several movies. It’s archetypical. The old trapper’s trick : to cover up your tracks as you move on. Difficulty must depend on the terrain. In mud, you sink, leaving large footprints that are hard to hide. On stone, it would seem easier.
However, whatever the terrain, one is left with the sensation that covering up one’s trace is an unsolvable problem, an infinite duplication of changes that the environment must undergo and for which there is no coming back. Since human beings’ physical and spiritual acts are inevitably approximate, they seem quite incapable of this feat. Ideally, covering up your tracks is to make the ground that youlook as if it were the virgin soil that preceded your passing. And yet, when a human being touches something and thus changes it, even in the most infinite way, he can never bring it back to it’s former state, he can only cover up the first modification by a new modification which then become the trace of the erasing of the tracks.
The fugitive makes his way through fallen leaves. The environment is modified a first time. He turns around and places leaves where he has just been. This might fool his human pursuers. This ploy will be totally useless if dogs accompany them, for these creatures rely solely on their sense of smell. The fugitive knows that to fool the dogs he must walk in the same direction as the wind. Different tricks for different animals.
The human pursuer doesn’t have a strong sense of smell. He observes, touches and follow his instinct. Yet another of the trapper’s tricks. He who tries to moves stealthily, tries to cover up his tracks ; yet the more he tries to hide them, the more traces are accumulated : the traces of the erasing of the traces of the erasing of the traces of the erasing of the traces...
You often see this in detective movies. Someone does something shady, he is suspected. He lies to get out of it a first time. But the lie brings new trouble to so he tells new lies. And so on and so fourth, the downward spiral is laid, he gets caught, gets stuck, loses it and goes down. We’ve known the moral of the story ever since we were old enough to get scolded.
Let’s come back to the chase in the woods. The pursuer is looking for traces of the guy he is chasing, making hypotheses about the past. I think he went this way. The fugitive is trying to cover up his tracks, making hypotheses about the future. I think he won’t see that I went this way. The first gropes his way along, the later hopes. If they ever meet, it is down to who will be the first to draw. Past and future fade into a dense and unending present. Seconds that last hours, seconds that film editing turns into hours by cutting up bodies, grins, looks, drop of sweat, hands clenching the grip. A good Western.
Another recurrent scene, one you find in horror stories and films. A creatures lays hiding in the dark, sounds seem to come out of every direction, from the sides, from in front, from behind, like ricochets of signs. He doesn’t know which way to turn. Overwrought, he fires. A first burst straight ahead. But the noise resume. The creature is still there. A second burst. Same scenario. Until the creature suddenly appears where you least expected. Yet another strategy to escape perception : multiplication of traces.
We’ve talked about chases, we’ve talked about getting each other. Of one guy wanting to get the other. Of a creature wanting to get someone. Of being on the go while covering up one’s tracks. Moving on in smoke. Smoking out the beast. Putting a bullet in it. We’re talking about the perfect crime and the perfect investigation, forever irreconciliable.
We investigate skin. Fur hanging on the wall of the trapper’s cabin. What animal did it belong to ? How and when did it die ? Can we consider the skin and it’s former barer separately ? We have to imagine, to make ourselves imagine.
Perfection is a smoke screen. Smoke that hasn’t yet been dispersed, a fault that has yet to come. Perfection is a moment within imperfection.
Rifles against what crime ? Putting an end to life at a distance, dispersing the smoke and uncovering the victim’s final pose. Suits a criminal, not an investigator. From this perfect, silent pose, this snapshot of the crime scene, we attempt to find the imperfection, the movement, the life that was before it ended.
We make hypoteses on the past, we make up a story, we prepare the scene for the crime, we look for traces of the crime at the moment of innocence.
We discover that the moment of innocence is a moment with the moment of the crime, that the crime reveals itself in the moment of innocence. We realize that this revelation is called fiction.
NP: Can you explain how you build this body of work?
NH: For Matador I wanted to work on the kind of myth that exists around the idea of the road as relayed by the cinema (let’s mention here as examples Duel by Spielberg, Mad Max by Miller, or Vanishing Point by Sarafian). From that general idea I collected different things: images of all kinds (paintings, photographs, film stills), quotes, objects… I started to become interested in the flowers that mark the places where people have died on the border of a road and to go to all kinds of motor-freak meetings. Here came the stunts. Shooting those pictures, I met a lot of bikers, spotted a lot of places and at the same time did a lot of snapshots. I started building the body of the series by hanging on one wall reference images and snapshots from scouted locations and on another wall images I was shooting for the Matador series. I was playing around with these cheap prints, trying different image sizes and finding different relations between them. This building process, which implies considering the work as a set, resulted in Matador.
NP: Was the idea of making a book something you had in mind for Matador? What is for you the perfect way of showing your pictures?
NH: As I explained, the way of building the body of my work was to hang pictures on the wall. I was seeing it as an installation but not exclusively. I used this idea as a tool to build the series as a set. In the end the fact that photography offers many ways to broadcast is something that interests me a lot and books are obviously something I have in mind too. Moreover, I am very happy with the book!
NP: For me, your images and especially the landscapes have a typical French feeling, was it something you wanted to convey?
NH: Yes! Even if I’m not attached to the precise location of the work, it was important to have some elements that would give an idea of the location and the period of time in which it took place. This is another way to build links between images from the body of work and images the spectators have in mind. I’m very concerned by those links. You will be able to link things in different ways depending if, for example, you have in mind bike races, 70′s movies, French rap video clips or romantic painting.
NP: Between “the city” or “the countryside” which one inspires you the most?
NH: I grew up in a suburb of a small town, in those places there is no city and no countryside. A Nike Air covered with mud, this is what inspires me the most.
NP: I know you lived a time in Bordeaux and I always felt that there was a rich artistic scene emerging in this city. What do you think of this?
NH: “Everything’s dirtier in the south”.
NP: In relation to the text by Julien Perez, I am curious to know how important is cinema, or moving images for you?
NH: Cinema is looking at the world through the same dispositive as photography but their possibilities of building our perception of it are different. Basically cinema uses stories and different narrative elements to dig into the meaning of things when photography takes an image in the flow of reality and turns it into something like an object. From that point, some elements from movie making like mounting, traveling or rhythm are really important in my work. On another point, I am also concerned by the cultural background cinema represents as a source for stereotypical images. I talked earlier about wanting a French feeling in the landscapes, but I also thought about Westerns. It’s interesting that an image can bring a feeling of closeness while also having elements of somewhere else. This kind of impression allows the images to be linked to others.
(The text by Julien Perez comes has a pamphlet inserted in MATADOR book).
NP: Is that why Matador has its own narrative story?
NH: It’s not the purpose but there is still that title and some explicit images. When you have images then a story is always possible I guess; maybe more under the form of a fictional interpretation than a proper narrative or dramatic story.
NP: How do you consider words or texts regarding photography?
NH: To me photography is a propellant and text, when it’s linked to it, has to light the wick. I don’t like it much when the text talks properly of the pictures, when it’s a comment on them or when images are illustrating it. A text that goes with a photographic work has to take the same direction without facing or digging it.
On an invitation from Paul-Louis Roubert.
On an invitation from Pierre Andrieux and Nicolas Milhé.
Curated by Karin Schlageter, with Simon Bergala, Bruno Botella, Cecile Bouffard, Erosion Power (Benoît Menard and Aldéric Trével), Les petits chats d’Auber (Yann Rondeau and Sylvain Rousseau), Andrés Ramirez, Georgia René-Worms, Eléonore Saintagnan & Grégoire Motte.
Curated by Mathieu Buard, with Laura Gozlan, Antoine Grulier, François-Xavier Guiberteau, Philippe Jarrigeon, Benoit Ménard, Gabriel Méo, Ludovic Sauvage, Camille Vivier.
Exhibition on the occasion of the first anniversary of Lapin Canard editions, with Juan Aizpitarte, Christian Andersson, Marielle Chabal, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Alain Declercq, Chloe Dugit-Gros, Sammy Engramer, David Evrard, Gaillard & Claude, Vincent Ganivet, Yann Géraud, Yann Gerstberger, Laura Gozlan, Pierre Joseph, Laurent Lacotte & Pablo Cavero, Seulgi Lee, Damien Mazières, Nicolas Moulin, Marie Quéau, Samir Ramdani, Shanta Rao, Sylvain Rousseau, Eric Stephany, Laurent Tixador, Céline Vaché Olivieri and We Are The Painters.
Editorial and curatorial project
In collaboration with Loan Calmon, Demi tour de France, Younes Klouche, Isabelle Kraiser, Claude Lévêque, Ahndraya Parlato & Gregory Halpern, Nicolas Poillot, Sylvain Rousseau & Yann Rondeau, Myriam Santos.
Curated by Timothée Chaillou with Guillaume Airiaud, Remi Amiot, Ruth Barabash, Vincent Beaurin, Sarah Bedford, Yannick Bernede, Karine Bisch, Charlie Boisson, Elvire Bonduelle, Guillaume Bruere, Damien Cadio, Nicolas Chardon, Mathieu Cherkit, Claude Closky, Philippe Cognée, Guillaume Constantin, Paul Cowan, Annabelle Arlie, Christophe Brunnquell, Florian Bézy, Damien Cadio, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Franck Davi, Charles De Meau, Stephen Dean, Edith Dekyndt, Emilie Ding, Kaye Donachie, Antoine Dorrote, Luke Dowd, Thomas Dozol, Arthur Dreyfus, Melissa Dubbin, Florent Dubois, Chloe Dugit-Gros, Kenny Dunkan, Jack Early, Aymeric Ebrard...
Curated by Myriam Barchechat, with Harvey Benge, Pascal Fellonneau, Marcus Haydock, Simon Kossoff, Paul Kwiatkowski, Damien Lafargue, Arnaud Nabos.
Curated with Loan Calmon, with works of Santi Doumen, Marcus Haydock, Isabelle Kraiser, Damien Lafargue, Julien Magre, Nicolas Milhé, Arthur Molines, Maciek Pozoga, Marie Quéau, Yann Stofer.
Curated by Benoit Ménard, with Grégory Cuquel, Sam Mapp, Damien Mazières, Hugo Pernet, Aurélien Porte, Simon Rayssac, Aldéric Trével.
Curated by Myriam Barchechat, with Harvey Benge, Marcus Haydock, Simon Kossof, Damien Lafargue, Paul Kwiatkowski, Simon Letourneau.
With: Jean Dupuy, Hannah Friedmann, Renaud Perriches, Owen Piper, Neil Bickerton, Charles Dreyfus, Adrien Guillet, Catherine Faux, Fertil & Teixidor, Jacques Halbert, Pascal Le Gras, Camille Le Houezec, Christophe Lemaître, Jannis Marwitz, Mathieu Mercier, Martin Poyner, Sylvain Rousseau, Diego Sanchez, Camille Tsvetoukhine and Joey Vilement...
Curated by Gijs Assmann and Hanne Hagenaars with : Antistrot, Kenneth Anger, Shaun Gladwell, Nan Goldin, Jan Hoek, Nicolas Hosteing, Alex Kals, Hamid El Kanbouhi, Paul Kooiker, David Lynch, Tony Oursler / Mike Kelley, Magnus Monfeldt, Seth Price & Tim Hamilton, Richard Prince, Lost & Found / Misha de Ridder, Maria Roosen, Eelco Wagenaar, Jack Pierson, Mark Wallinger, Louis Radstaak, Maarten van Schaik, The Stan-Jan Project, Aaron Young.