Curator: François Cheval

Between photography and abstraction, we can’t tell which one distrusts the other. Photography thinks it represents reality in the raw while abstraction projects itself beyond the real. This false opposition was proven to be wrong by the avant-garde movement of the thirties. The big “Film und foto” exhibition that took place in Stuttgart in 1929 inaugurated a form of photography that was free of naturalism. The only option open to the “new photographer” with this innovative medium was experimentation. The world was no longer represented through an inventory, but through perception. 


Denis Darzacq’s work in in line with this tradition in the way he takes everyday materials of no great importance and brings them together to create emotional, ageless objects with multiple references. Photography injects life, fuelled by its energy. The initial appropriation of elements from everyday life is based on chance. The nothing becomes the object-subject, a graphic reappraisal of an ephemeral construction as the only reality turns out to be photographic. This way of making a remarkable object from nothing is a constant in the work of Denis Darzacq. The innocuous becomes a work of art, thanks not to a simple decision, but to the material’s intrinsic qualities. In his “choreographed” videos, it is essential not to establish a scale by which “professional dancers” are compared to “amateur dancers”.  While what the amateurs present is nothing exceptional, they do retain an essence of simple humanity that the professionals often tend to leave behind. In a situation where it is impossible to tell improvisation from work, they open up to one another to affirm a powerful collective presence that plays ironically with the science of gravity. We cannot suspect Denis Darzacq of formalism, his work is, on the contrary, the very expression of the living; accomplished forms shot through with a rare creative power.

All images of Pray for the Shadows

© Denis Darzacq

Courtesy of the artist

About the Artist:

Born in 1961, Denis Darzacq lives and works in Paris. 

Graduated from the National School of Decorative Arts in 1986 (ENSAD). He began his career of photography following the French rock scene and then became a stills photographer on numerous feature films (Satyajit Ray, Jacques Rivette, Chantal Ackerman, etc.). From 1989, he regularly collaborates with the newspaper Libération and more generally with the national press. In 1997, He became a member of agency VU. 


Denis Darzacq has developed personal work since the mid-1990’s. Like many other French photographers of his generation, Denis Darzacq worked in press photography which forged his artistic work and sharpened his eye for contemporary society. Darzacq takes the time for patient work in the field in direct contact with his subject. However he has broken with reporting and coverage-as-testimony in favour of a more analytical approach which has led to formally cohesive series. The close-ups in the series Only Heaven still show the artist’s personal involvement. However, the overhead views in Ensembles and the front views in Bobigny centre ville and in Casques de Thouars show the growing distance between the artist and his subject and even indicate the artist in the process of retreating. 


Above all, Denis Darzacq has become convinced that planned images paradoxically serve to reflect society with greater acuity. Since 2003 he has turned to staging which involves the principle of disruption. The pose or condition of the people staged contrasts with the established order without spilling over into the spectacular. Nude men and women walk through suburban settings; others seem suspended in urban settings or among supermarket shelves. Handicapped persons repossess public space. In the recent series Recomposition I, Darzacq used digital editing for the first time to relentlessly pursue this edgy logic. 


The body comes across as the common denominator in Denis Darzacq’s work. There are exceptions – the more abstract motifs such as the still lives in Recomposition I, the reflections of light sources in Fakestars – which convey the same sense of observation of the contemporary world. Denis Darzacq approaches the body like a sculpture; a sculpture of social commentary, for the body cannot be disassociated from the context in which it interacts. The body is the tool used to critique the problems and barriers inflicted on different groups of people, in particular disaffected youth from the outskirts of life, and, like in Act, populations on the fringe of society. Denis Darzacq puts his finger on the social contradictions and restrictions. He also beckons the viewer, through the breach created by movement stripped of meaning, to affirm ever-more complex identity than what meets the eye, and to assume a form of freedom where freedom seems to have vanished.