Photography? An Enigma

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In addition to the exhibition What is photography?, presented in the Centre Pompidou's photography gallery (from March 4 to June 1, 2015, Forum-1), the film department offers an overview of the contradictory and complementary relations between photography and moving pictures.

The ability of photography to make visible the imperceptible has fascinated and nourished a collective unconscious inclined to assign her with a set of supernatural attributes. Taking up the foundations of an ontology based on ageless beliefs to images and their conversation with the invisible powers, cinema has drawn from the register of spirit photography the elements of a formal grammar in which the phenomenon of appearance and disappearance on the screen are the markers of its magical nature. Like Georges Méliès in the role of a photographer making a portrait of a young woman by only using his psychic powers (The Spiritualistic Photographer, 1903), the American artist Rebecca Baron (based in Los Angeles) offers with Détour de Force (2014) an disturbing portrait of Ted Serios, an atypical figure in American popular culture of the 1960s who was able to expose the surfaces of Polaroid film by his thought. If Méliès has exalted through its optical traps the magical aspect of the photographic image, Rebecca Baron explores the mainstream media coverage of Ted Serios and his mental pictures (thoughtography) in which both became the subjects a morbid attraction where the use of imagination is denied. The demystification of photography denounced by Détour de Force seems to find in an industrial film produced by the American Chemical Society his negative reflection. Designed to highlight some invisible trades of the film industry (particularly those related to laboratory work) and give to the audience the elements of a scientific explanation on the process of creating an image in cinema, The Alchemist in Hollywood (1940) led the neophyte to face an impenetrable abstraction level identical to the inexplicable magic of the photographic image.

Le portrait Spirite (Georges Méliès, 1903, 35mm (DCP), b&w, sil, 2’18)
- Détour de Force (Rebecca Baron, 2014, num file, b&w, sound, 30’) (vo)
- The Alchemist in Hollywood (American Chemical Society,1940, 35mm (num file), b&w, sound, 28’) (vo)

Thanks to Video Data Bank (Chicago), Prelinger Arhives (Los Angeles), Lobster Films (Paris)



Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 19:00 to Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 18:55


  • Place Georges-Pompidou
    75004   Paris
    48° 51' 38.2464" N, 2° 21' 8.0388" E