Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Frédérick Carnet: The Last First Day

Frédérick Carnet is a french photographer of, well, I have no idea what repute. For all I know he's huge and I am years late to the party, or perhaps nobody's ever heard of him. Regardless, I ran across this work he did, and I liked it, and here we are. The portfolio on my mind is here.

I am not familiar with "The Road" particularly, in either of its forms, but it's a post-apocalyptic and somewhat distopian story.

I don't think you really need the antecedents, though. The pictures speak for themselves. What struck me about them is how completely banal each one is. They look like crummy underexposed snaps, taken one by one. "Here is my girlfriend on the beach in the fog, sorry it's so dark", "here is a cool looking stick", and so on. Many of the frames are graphically the same, some sort of vertical object centered in a largely blank frame, or a massed shape in the middle of a largely blank frame. They feel not only banal, but naively framed, which feels even more vernacular. If we did not have the group of pictures, and the sequence, and maybe even the accompanying text, we might dismiss this stuff as just a lame bunch of underexposed snaps. With the group, the sequence it's presented in, I think we feel the idea, that dismal, abandoned flavor of someplace, somethings, some people, after something has happened.

You could almost believe this as the roll of film shot by the Last Man Out after some disaster, who happened to have an Instamatic in his pocket. Not quite, though, it's slightly too mannered, too deliberate feeling, for that. Put in a slight tilt to some of the frames, a thumb over the lens here, a blurry mass of accidental button-press, and you could have that. Mr. Carnet doesn't want that, though. He wants to mannered, careful, but with that flavor.

One picture stands out to me, a little, as an odd-man-out, the spilled paint. I think it functions well as an accent, though. The splattered liquid feels to me as if it's making the apocalyptic flavor more explicit. It's not blood, but it might remind of of blood. It hints, perhaps, that there is more here than simply a place that people have mostly left behind. It hints, I think, that there might be a reason this place was left behind.

All up, I like the work. Quite a lot. It's the sort of murky obscure stuff I like, after all. But it's more than that, it's an accretion of minor details, of little unimportant bits and pieces that adds up to a fairly potent whole. A discarded beer bottle. A person in the distance. A car pulled over in the fog. Various objects and places, each of which might, or might not, be abandoned or lost -- but taken together one feels that they are surely abandoned and lost after all. Finishing with a nearly empty frame. The End.

It's well sequenced, I think, and well done overall. Mr. Carnet's other work looks interesting as well, but I haven't spent much time with it.

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