an American Beauty
In 2014 Grégory Michenaud took a road trip across the Southeast of the USA, following in the footsteps of, among others, Wim Wenders who shot „Paris Texas” there. The choice of these cinematic locations was no accident. Not only was the photographer interested in capturing the point of view of a European who travels across a physical space charged with a fictional meaning but he also desired to discover both the real America and to confront his own preconceptions of the country.
As a reference point Grégory Michenaud took the visual culture of his formative years, the 80’s and 90’s, in particular series and movies such as, „The Wonder Years”, „Alf” and „Beverly Hills” and Spielberg’s „E.T.”. Recalled in later years, from a distance that provides room for critical thought, nostalgia or a mixture of both, the films and series are seen to contain elements that are so strongly rooted in identity that they are almost impossible to get away from. The project „An American Beauty” created during this trip is a record of his chasing the dreams and myths formed by absorbing hundreds of photos, movies and TV series.
Grégory Michenaud photographs from a distance, conveying emotion through the aesthetics of the photographs. For example, he places an isolated house in a vast landscape, recalling paintings by Edward Hopper. Sometimes he searches for Americana (or preconceptions of it): the flag, the mail boxes or old cars under tarpaulins. We all know these things, if not from actual experience, then from various images which have become an integral part of our lives.
Jeff Wall, a Canadian photographer, once stated not un-provocatively that, „no picture could exist today without having a trace of the film still in it, at least no photograph”. Cinema has colonised the mass imagination, leaving in each of us the remains of cinematic experiences and shards of the American dream, which regardless of where we are from, allow us to dream along with the characters from movies or series.
This is why the photographs from „An American Beauty” have a particular resonance in the viewer’s memory, leaving them with questions about the real nature of media mirages: do we live a double life in front of a TV screen or in a darkened cinema, or do we perhaps fall into a dream, which is hard to awaken from? Can reality catch up with ideas created by cinema? Can you long for memories which you haven’t actually managed to collect, for places you haven’t had a chance to visit, for a life you have never lived?
1 maja, 2014