From 14 October to 5 November 2023, the Centre pour la Photographie du Château de l’Hom in Gaillac (France) will be hosting the Ulrich Lebeuf exhibition entitled Corpus.
The exhibition illustrates how the human body is represented in the artist’s photographic work. The photos, which are partly printed on ARCHES® Aquarelle 640 gsm cold pressed paper, are from different series Ulrich Lebeuf has produced over the last twenty years.
It highlights the variety of contexts and techniques used by the artist, as well as the constant threads that run through his photographic approach to the bodies of the subjects photographed.
Bodies, whether nude or clothed, a recurring presence in Ulrich Lebeuf’s work, arouse an emotional response as well as suggesting the subject’s place in society. Tattoos and clothes are shown as additional ways of expressing personality or convictions. The impression that emanates from the people in the pictures is often one of fragility and vulnerability, even though they have a strong photographic presence.
© Ulrich Lebeuf – Duecento-Famille, print on paper ARCHES® Aquarelle 640 gsm cold pressed, size 105 x 75 cm
© Ulrich Lebeuf – Khaos, print on ARCHES® paper Aquarelle 640 gsm cold pressed, size 105 x 75 cm
Who is Ulrich Lebeuf?
Ulrich Lebeuf is a French photographer who was born in Champigny-sur-Marne, France in 1972. He has been the artistic director of the MAP photography festival in Toulouse since 2014 and he runs workshops in France and abroad.
In May 2016, he was awarded the Prix Jean Dieuzaide by the Académie des Arts du Languedoc for his photographic work (for bearing witness to major events through his photos for the French and international press) and for his commitment to promoting photography as an artistic director.
He has been a member of the MYOP agency since January 2007 and his work has been published in Le Monde, Libération, The New York Times and magazines like Grazia, VSD, Géo, etc.
Ulrich Lebeuf’s photographs are taken on the terrain of current affairs, in places of conflict or power, places where history happens and is decided.
Alongside his work as a photojournalist, he also focuses on more personal photography projects, in which he alternates photographic processes according to the subject matter: colour, black and white, Polaroid or techniques closer to painting.
Ulrich Lebeuf and photography
“Two events led me to photography: the “revelation” of what a photo lab is at a summer camp when I was 14, and then the discovery of a mythical book of photographs in my grandfather’s attic: Cartier-Bresson’s Images à la sauvette.
Photojournalism quickly became the obvious choice: the chance to go and see different places, to indulge my curiosity, to reach out to others. Later on, in a second phase, I started to think about the act of photography, and that developed into a personal voice in my photojournalism. But photographing the news remained a way of approaching people who were different by their culture, their social class, etc.
I am self-taught and I work from my gut, which seems to me to be a guarantee of sincerity. By alternating photojournalism with a more artistic approach, I find that one feeds the other and acts as a stimulus for reflection. Before getting started on a project, I think about which tool would be best suited to what I want to get across. It’s a matter of instinct and it has to serve the work. I have this need to experiment with different techniques, but there is a consistency in the work I produce in spite of the diversity of approaches.
People tell me that, in my photos, the subject looks as if they are close to the person looking at them. Perhaps it’s because, deep down, I like the people I’m photographing. I try to instil sincerity, to avoid the posture of the photographer so that the human aspect takes precedence and the photo is just a conclusion.
All the personal subjects are connected to my own life. For example, the book on the AZF factory explosion came about because I was 300 metres away when it happened. I notice that violence is a recurrent theme in my work. My vision of the world has become harder.
The Khaos series was born out of the surfeit of the violence I was seeing during the events I was covering on a weekly basis as a reporter. That was a turning point, I couldn’t stand it anymore being a witness to such violence, which actually seems to be universal. I use the material of photojournalism, destructuring the photo, enlarging it, cropping it to create something dark, a choreography of violence, a spectacle. It’s a very personal thing.
I envisage the destruction of the images, and now I often use cropping. When is the photo created? And, more and more often, my sources of inspiration are coming from painting.
The recent Spettri di famiglia series is like Khaos in its use of verticality, Piezography and grain. Darkness is more present in my photos and, on this subject, my meeting with Pierre Soulage was an absolute revelation, in particular when he made me realise that there is nothing better than being in the dark to perceive the light. The subtlety of light, photography is exactly that.”