2019 : In a few words
"The 2019 Prix Levallois confirms its international status : 670 candidates from 77 nationalities (France, 278; Russia, 68; Iran, 50; Italy, 21...) with near-perfect parity! After looking at more than 10,000 photographs, we have chosen 15 photographers (8 women, 7 men). They are from a number of different countries: France (3), Russia (3), Italy (2), Iran (2), India (1), Mexico (1), Costa Rica (1), Belgium (1) and the UK (1).
As we did during the selection process in 2018, we have paid close attention to the general trends present in the portfolios we received. This year’s offering confirmed the dominance of documentary photography, often giving the sense that it is only the subject which counts - as if this on its own were enough!
However, we did also receive many portraits and self-portraits, still lifes, landscapes, bodies in nature, environmental subjects, and yet again a large number of works in black and white. In our view, photography is a way of writing about the world, not a banal method for recording it. While making our selection, we prioritised those candidates who did not give in to the temptations of imagery, and who rather presented true photographic challenges, both in their engagement with, and reflection on, their subjects, and in the quality of their conceptual and plastic ways of writing. Now it’s your turn to explore our selection, which we hope is qualitative and invigorating."
Catherine Dérioz et Jacques Damez - Galerie Le Réverbère
2018 : Preface by Jacques Damez
Prix Levallois, 10 ans ! Une collection photographique
“In 2008, the Prix Levallois arose in the head of a few people, who share the same interest: a compelling necessity to create an event to promote photography and photographers. Let us remind that the photo club of Levallois-Perret was born on May 22, 1902, and still exists! This historical background might have facilitated a fertile cultural ground for photography. We must not forget the importance of the ICART photography school and its director, Mark Grosset, with whom Stéphane Decreps — The Deputy Mayor of the city of Levallois — gave substance and soul to this prize. Of course, as every adventure, this one didn’t imagine its own longevity, it rather banked on the future. Most of all, it was important to organize and create the structure, conceptualize its challenges, and set the rules. This is how everything started.
From the first year, photographs of the laureate integrated the collections of the city. Ten years later, a representative ensemble is here to profile the prize. There are several periods during this decade, due to different personalities in charge of the artistic direction (Paul Frèches 2008-2014, Fannie Escoulen 2015-2017). This fact underlines that a collection is still in motion, it is not a single chronology, neither an inert theme, but a process crossed by successive subjectivities that enhance it.
Under the same word, different models are treated, without having a lot in common. May they be public, private, or corporate, the collections could only be similar in the way they preserve an ensemble of objets to create a corpus. Their aim, their public, the urges that made them could be poles apart. The fact that, in France, public collections are unalienable already change things, in comparison to other collections. Moreover, we might consider that the recognition of a work of art is increasingly due to the market’s instability.
Building a collection is a major project: by gathering works, it is a way to produce a thought, to create a dialogue between art and ideology, between individuality and collective memory; it is a way of questioning frontiers between the classification of genres and mediums. A collection of books, of records, of videos is, for each one, built upon specific expectations and particular ranking systems. Some rank in alphabetical order, others by genres, others by the color of the spine ... these options tell a lot about the ones that took them. It is the same for an art collection; we are facing different propositions of imaginary museum that tell as much about the ones who created them as the artworks that form them. As a viewer, it is noted to progress in the heart of a collection, with slowness and respect. It is a very intimate invitation to share a life experience. Understanding the whisper and the logic that preside over the collection are the only ways to judge it. The succession and juxtaposition of signatures aren’t enough to make it magic, the wonder rather comes from unspooling the ball of emotions that built up the ensemble.
The same can’t apply to the collection of Levallois, since it is not the result of a single mind, nor a curator that, in a long term work, draws a line. There is a space left to chance, and to the unexpected. Hundreds of applications, under the watchful supervision of the artistic direction (periodically renewed), are examined to select 15 shortlisted photographers whose projects are submitted to an independent jury (5 persons, 4 of which are part of the world of photography chosen by the artistic director and the Deputy Mayor for cultural affairs from the city of Levallois). From that, a laureate is selected and two or three of his photographs integrate the collection. Therefore, it is the juxtaposition of collegial artistic decisions. We are facing a collection that make visible the emergence of generations: on the one hand, young photographers — since the prize is dedicated to people under 35 — and on the other hand, the succeeding jurors.
No doubt, here is a historical and sociological fascinating field, since it concerns the preservation, through the years, of the tendencies of the new generation of international photographers chosen by their peers.
It is a succession of subjects, aesthetic choices, techniques that mark its time. It is a collection that, by its own structure, leaves traces of what it is made of. It is not attached to a specific command, nor a bias, over the different teams that took charge of it; it delineates the spirit of the epoch. Its coherence can’t be found in an obvious straight line that would provide direction. It is rather a picking through tendencies, times, and those who live it. As we live in a rational country that likes rules, people could be disconcerted, because there is no apparent rules.
May we underline that, for a few years, questions about collections started to open up.
Museums, increasingly acquire vernacular photographs, which were not allowed until now.
Raw art mixes with the most sophisticated art, combinations of mediums and genres spread through the exhibition spaces; the visual arts couples with the performing arts to produce new forms. What used to be obvious vanishes, giving place to other fields of analysis. Visual, conceptual and political dialogues create chimeras that need to be preserved and thought with new patterns.
Photographic prizes, as the Prix Levallois, take part in the formation of this nebula. Of course, ten years is just a beginning — remarkable beginning, because it is not easy! — nevertheless, it is still young. It requires to believe in a real longevity, to imagine the fifty years of the prize, and then observe through five volumes, the bias of each generation facing its own time. This first hindsight launches the principle that will be repeated over five decades, articulated between them by generational breaks, each of them being traversed by the mutations of the treatment of subjects and the world.
As a consequence, it is likely that, some forgotten parts of photography would find a place, theirs, neither more nor less, like vernacular photography, today in museums. Let’s think about the diversity of treatment, and the place of wedding photography, in the world today, or medical, scientific, technical, food, and family photography... These different types of photography actually left out from exhibitions, may not remain aside, infinitely. Will we see them emerge thanks to these new selection methods that characterize prizes? It is a challenge, it is worth dreaming.”
Jacques Damez - Galerie Le Réverbère
Translation : Pauline Jurado Barroso
Exhibition view Prix Levallois, 10 ans ! Une collection photographique ©Galerie Le Réverbère
12 Photographers / Laureates of the Prix Levallois
Marvi Lacar (2008), Shira Igell (2009), Virginie Terrasse (2010), Alexander Gronsky (2011), Sophie Jung (2012), Max Pinckers (2013), Esther Teichmann (2014), Tom Callemin (2015), Vasantha Yogananthan (2016), Bieke Depoorter (2017), Pierre-Elie de Pibrac (2018), and Sara Imloul (2019).
From July 1 to July 7, 2019
ENSP - École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d'Arles, galerie du haut, 16 rue des Arènes, Arles