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01_watson_avenue 02_romford_road 03_ilford_hill 04_roding_lane_south_i 05_southend_road 06_north_circular_road_iv 07_north_circular_road_v 08_north_circular_road_viii 09_north_circular_road_xv
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Portrait
Watson Avenue, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, Watson Avenue,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
Romford Road, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, Romford Road,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
Ilford Hill, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, Ilford Hill,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
Roding Lane South, I, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, Roding Lane South, I,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
Southend Road, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, Southend Road,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
North Circular Road, IV, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, North Circular Road, IV,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
North Circular Road, V, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, North Circular Road, V,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
North Circular Road, VIII, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, North Circular Road, VIII,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
North Circular Road, XV, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, North Circular Road, XV,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
North Circular Road, I, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, North Circular Road, I,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
Hanger Lane, Benoit GrimbertBenoit Grimbert, Hanger Lane,
2006-07, tirages manuels argentiques, 50 x 50 cm
© courtesy of the Artist
It's usually place names that define the photographic series by Benoit Grimbert. Or if you  prefer, by the simple name of a road: A406, North Circular Road, because it plays an explicit function of territorial identification, that of the northern outskirts of London. Here, the road serves as a guideline, or appearing and disappearing indiscriminately, to let the city emerge at its margin. Also na...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Benoit Grimbert

On Saturday October 18th, Artslant's Natalie Hegert met for coffee at Café Beaubourg with photographer Benoit Grimbert to discuss his upcoming show at the École nationale supérieure d'architecture Paris-Malaquais which is in conjunction with the Europe-wide Mois de la Photo (Photo Month), put on in Paris by the Maison Européene de la Photographie.  What a mouthful.  Over the murmuring of the Saturday afternoon promenade and the strains of music of various street performers, we talked about his book Normandie: Paysages de la Reconstruction, published by Le Point du Jour; we talked about architecture and urban planning; and we gossiped a bit about other photographers.  The following Q&A was conducted via e-mail shortly thereafter...

North Circular Road X


Natalie Hegert - When did you first pick up a camera and how did you get interested in photography?

Benoit Grimbert - I think that my interest in photography, especially the act of taking a photograph, is connected with something quite profound. I suppose something happened that decided and determined my implication in this medium... I realized it the first time I took a reflex camera in my hands, then I understood that such a camera permitted me to totally control the frame of a photograph... What suddenly came to light, what was revealed was very important to me!

NH - Professionally you work with urban planners, taking technical photographs.  How does this differ from your artistic practice?

BG - I would say that there are several important differences. First, when I work with urban planners, I don't define the subject of the work, which corresponds to a precise urban progam/project. Next, in that kind of commission, photographs are intended for specific purposes which, even when photographs are documents for study, influence the content. All these considerations are implicitly present at the beginning of the work. Moreover, as regards with my personal work, I don't conceive a photograph separately, but as part and parcel of a series, which supposes a specific assembling of all the pieces. Lastly, the context of diffusion and demonstration of the photographs is decisive; in an artistic context, there is no purpose at the very outset...

NH - Your exposition at the École nationale supérieure d'architecture Paris-Malaquais is entitled A406, North Circular Road, and concerns the area along the periphery of London.  What attracts you to these spaces on the periphery as opposed to more central locations?  What do you think your photographs convey about the character of these places?

BG - I was born and lived in a town of medium size, surrounded both by the countryside and industrial zones, and I spent a lot of time in these spaces, walking or riding a motorcycle. I particularly remember places not very qualified, but in the same time absolutely real.
If I consider the question of the representation, I confess that I am interested in abandoned spaces, including urban spaces, which the mass media always either ignores or caricatures. It is very astonishing how a place can become a problem when it "passes" into a representation; it is possible to be unsupported by the image of something (for instance the places we live) that we do otherwise accept "in life".
In these photographs, I tried to show relations between different things, without univocacy. Unequivocal images are so boring.


NH - In many of your photographs, the street figures prominently, such as North Circular Road IV, where the road takes up almost half of the frame.  What sort of relationship does the street have to the other structures in the context of the areas where you photograph?

BG - In the continuity of what I have just said, the street seems to me to be a fact as present as the other elements which compose the urban spaces. As a pure "fact", the street also deserve to be considered, then represented. Moreover, if you look attentively to this element, you can see a lot of very remarkable details appear...

NH - Many of your photographs are marked by the absence of people.  When they are present, they are usually alone, and exiting the frame of the photograph.  Why is that?

BG - I am not a misanthrope... I like people! But in the field of urban landscape photography, people immediately bring a strong meaning, more often anecdotic, which distracts from the meaning of spaces, of urban organisation.

NH - Your photographs concern very much the relation of space, zoning and use, and in many of them you choose to portray in-between, somehow forgotten spaces, prohibitive to pedestrians, such as in North Circular Road VIII.  Do you find that your work is a critique of urban planning and its penchant for creating these uninhabitable zones?

BG - I feel your description very exact. But I don't consider my work at all as a critique of either urban planning or anything else; even I assume that my photographs, as anyone else, can share or suggest an interpretation (in that sense). I know perfectly well that there are no neutral images, but my position is so. A few days ago, I read this sentence from the Chris Killip book In flagrante :
"The photographs can tell you more about me than about what they describe." I totally agree with that.


NH - Where do you plan to photograph next?  Do you have your eye on a new project?

BG - As a matter of fact, I am about to go again to England to finish a series I began during the A406 series : the A1, I will revisit 25 years after Paul Graham's work. Also, last winter, I initiated another series in the periphery of Paris, that I plan to continue soon.

NH - Thanks so much!  We'll see you soon at the École Paris-Malaquais.

BG - Thank you very much for your interest and sensibility.


ArtSlant would like to thank Benoit Grimbert for his assistance in making this interview possible.

--Natalie Hegert

FORMER RACKROOMERS

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