By Utpal Borpujari
French man Bernard Faucon is as unlikely a creative person as one could meet. He gave up his craft when he was considered to be at his creative peak, simply because the time of ideas he had been working upon had come to an end. And also because it was the swansong of photography, “the last stage before the reign of pure, digital advertising images”. But this photographer is unusual in more senses than one. For one, he has been an exponent of what is called “staged” photography. And on the top of that, he uses mannequins to set up scenes instead of human models, because he finds the artificial figures more realistic.
Faucon’s work was recently for the first time in exhibit in India, and his use of mannequins, colours and settings left photography connoisseurs with a mixed set of emotions, particularly on his pessimistic themes and highly-personal treatment. But Faucon is oblivious to such varied reactions. For him, after giving up his art – though he takes an occasional snap to document his life – the most important thing has become the “word”, his new medium of expression.
The photographs that Faucon exhibited in India, in his exhibition at the Alliance Francaise, were from the series “The Chambers of Love” (1984-1987), “The Chambers of Gold” (1987-1989) and “Idols and sacrifices” (1989-1991). He explains his unusual choice of mannequins as “models” in many of his photographs as thus, “I discovered the possibility of setting up photographs with mannequins. It’s very difficult to take such photographs with persons, as a living person gives very empty photographs. Where is the life in those photographs? But when you photograph a mannequin, it shows a completely different life, which you cannot imagine. After that I have worked with fire, empty rooms, texts, landscapes.”
Faucon’s fascination for a particular colour also kept on changing with progression of time. “Yes, I have worked with red, gold, blue, But I don’t think of colours first. First I think of harmony and the colour comes in later. For example, in the series called ‘Idols and Sacrifices’, comprising 24 photographs, the red signifies blood. In front of idols, tragedies of blood happen. It also expresses the impossibility of photography, of life to keep the beauty, of problem of our times,” he explains.
Faucon left photography for good in 1995, after working in the field for two decades. And since then, he has not taken thematic photographs as he used to do. “Now I take snapshots, just to document my life. What is more important is the text for me. I use a digital camera now. I write prose, but very specific prose, about impossibilities of life and at the same time volatility of life.”
Quite interestingly, Faucon has visited South Asia earlier but never set foot in India. “I was apprehensive of coming here as it is too complicated a country, very difficult to understand, though it is very, very, very beautiful. I was waiting for a good chance to come here, and I think this was the right time,” he says.
Talking of his sudden decision to give up photography, he, however, says, “I do not disown anything, either the images, or the period in which they were created, or even the poetry which is my own and that I will continue to express in other ways.” Faucon primarily created eight different sections of photographs – “Summer Holidays” (1976-1981); ” Probable development of time” (1981-1984); “The Chambers of Love” (1984-1987); “The Chambers of Gold” (1987-1989); “Idols and sacrifices” (1989-1991); “The Writings” (1991-1992); “The End of the image” (1993-1995); and “The Happiest Day of my Youth” (1997-2000).
Born in 1950 in Provence, France, Faucon took to photography after philosophic and theological studies, and went on to hold nearly 250 solo exhibitions and as many group shows in 25 years, from Leo Castelli in New York City to Yvon Lambert in Paris. In 1989, he received the French National Prize for Photography.
Now that finally he has set foot in India, he says he would love to explore the country as he knows Delhi, which he visited this time, alone is not India. ”Yes, I would love to travel a little bit more,” he quips. Maybe, just maybe, the extreme diversity of life in India could again inspire him to pick up his camera!