di Sophie Zenon
Sophie Zénon invites you to re-read of the concept of historical heritage, integrating man with the landscape, but also the landscape with man. She talks about the arrival of her father, the son of Italian immigrants, in the Vosges (French mountain range), during the interwar period.
A child's face, a static, black and white profile.
This photograph is from her father's identity card, which was used to identify him as a migrant when the Italian family emigrated from Piedmont to the Vosges, almost a century ago.
Her father had a vivid memory of his childhood, which was marked by the power and magic of the great forest. He crossed this in the winter on skis, collecting blueberries, slipping on icy rivers on his way to school. Even so, the racism and social and political tensions found in the scorching political context between the two wars had not escaped either the child or the adolescent.
Extracted from his passport, the archive photo was printed on a Plexiglas plate and installed in a forest in the Bussang region, a place familiar to the child. It was then re-photographed in the foreground with an i-Phone.
As the sun moves on the plate, the figure of the ancestor becomes "Man-landscape".
Trunks, tree leaves, insects mix with the lines of the face, in a game of transparencies, reflections, shadows and lights.
Re-photographed archive photography comes back to life. Cropping and focusing in on the skin, the detail of the mouth, a nostril, an eyelid – it also suggest the geography of the body.
Sophie Zénon realised her first pictures in the late nineties, in Mongolia. After her studies on shamanism in ethnology and in the social sciences of religions, her artistic process is increasingly focused on the photographic staging of absence, our relationship to ancestors. Her photographic series “the Palermo Mummies” (Italy) is emblematic of this process. Captured with an exquisite delicacy, the mummies seem to vibrate, or even to dance, in between presence and absence, at a quivering frontier between life and death.
Between ethnographic and plastic research, between intimate memory and collective memory, her latest works have revisited the history of the family, closely linked to Italian immigration in France between the two wars.
Recipient of the Fondation des Treilles’s “Résidence pour la photographie” Prize (2015), of the Kodak Prix de la Critique (1999), of the Chroniques Nomades Fellowship (2000), shortlisted at the villa Kujoyama (2015), for the Niépce Prize (2011, 2015), for the Académie des Beaux Arts Prize (2010), her work has been shown extensively throughout France and Europe at large, and can be found in public collections.
She has published different books and artist books.