Born in 1948, Stéphane Duroy started his career as a press photographer working with different press agencies, including the VU’ agency. Duroy gradually turned to more personal photographic projects and since the late seventies, he has been travelled extensively across Europe and the United States. His photographic work examines intimate questions of personal and collective identities, memories and histories of people and places affected by the traumas of war, totalitarian regimes and migration.
The fall of the Berlin wall marked the starting point for Duroy’s photographic project L’Europe du silence (The Silent Europe). Intrigued by the idea of two diametrically opposing political ideologies co-existing in the same country, Duroy travelled to East Germany through a landscape that remained largely unchanged since 1933. He continued in Poland, a living testimony to the horrors of the Second World War and finally, in Verdun, the stage for one the longest battles of the First World War, thus closing the loop on a traumatic history that marked these European nations.
At the same time, Duroy worked on a parallel project, Distress, which records the uneasy reality of those living on the margins in a Thatcherite Britain – miners, kids, teenagers, unemployed and those left out. In the United States, Duroy travelled extensively from Coney Island to Montana tracing the illustrious idea of the American Dream which had lured millions fleeing from the tragedies in Europe to the American shores. This resulted in Unknown, a photobook in which he explores fading notions of identity and memory for those in exile.
As the photographer, Duroy seemingly keeps his distance from his subjects and thus, much of his work presents people and places as they are, without sentimentality or sympathy. The resulting images are eloquent and disconcerting at the same time – a haunting reminder of a past that is often forgotten or pushed deep within the recesses of memory.
At times, however, a glimpse of intimacy, a sign of tenderness escapes – in a photograph from his Distress series, for example, a kid smiles innocently at the camera, a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Le Bal, Paris – a platform championing the idea of image as a document – presents a remarkable selection of Stéphane Duroy’s photographs in its recently opened exhibition titled ‘Again and Again‘. A well-restrained curation and elegant scenography make this photography exhibition a must-visit this season.
The title ‘Again and Again‘ could not have been more appropriate, given the themes of historical recurrences of human tragedies that Duroy has examined throughout his career and also, given his recent questioning of the photographic medium as a means of artistic expression which the second part of the exhibition presents.
Owing to a deeply personal artistic turn, Stéphane Duroy proceeded to successively destroy and reconstitute several copies of his book Unknown. He carried out this process over and over again creating 29 one-off variations of the same book.
The images, thus removed from their original purpose and placed in a new context, tell a new tale, much akin to (re)constructing and (re)imagining narratives around the same history. Gradually, one is left with an altered sense of reality, even though a few scraps of information or imagery escape this transformation. The exhibition starts with a quote from Kafka, but it might just be apt here: “We photograph things to chase them from our mind. My stories are a way of closing the eyes.“
The exhibition Stéphane Duroy – Again and Again is on view from January 6 to April 9, 2017, at Le Bal, 6, Impasse de la Defense, 75018 Paris.
January 6, 2017 to April 9, 2017
At LE BAL
Stéphane Duroy – Again and Again
Le Bal presents a selection of Stéphane Duroy’s photographs offering a remarkable insight into his long-term work exploring interlinkages between identity, memory and history.