cORpuS - A perspective to alter bodily perception

Thomas Jukes

“Self-taught, I learn shooting and post-processing techniques in specialized magazines and on forums dedicated to photography, not hesitating to submit my photos to constructive criticism.”

Born in Saint-Etenne France in 1956 but spending most of his life and career based in Toulouse, Louis Blanc is a self-taught photographer who gained the art world's attention when he won the “Body Language” competition at the Festival Européen de la Photo de Nu d’Arle. The first prize for the said competition was the chance to exhibit at the Palais de l’Archevêché d’Arles. Blanc showed twelve photos from his Corpus series and eyes were opened. Not only to the talent of this photographer but also into his fantastically explorative mind.

The photos in the Corpus series are self-portraits. However, they are not your usual set of portraits. In most, we find it very difficult and more often than not impossible to see the face of the subject. When one thinks of self-portraits we imagine someone trying to capture themselves in a photo or painting, usually, this involves the full features or body of the artist. Louis Blanc breaks this common ground with his expressive use of perspective. Hands and feet are pushed forwards towards the camera with the body retreats into the background, this gives the viewer the illusion that these parts of the body are of a vastly different scale. The photographer makes incredible use of this altered scale and perception to completely transform his physical form. The subject becomes almost monster like in many of the images with his hands and feet obscuring the face and torso to create bizarre part human entities, images of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth spring to mind, in particular, the eerie character of the “Pale Man”. A demon whose eyes are implanted in his hands with the creature famously putting his hands to his head to place the eyes in the right place. This image is echoed in the photo by Blanc where he crouches with both hands out in front of his face, claw-like and reaching out to the viewer.

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It would be easy to say that the photos of Louis Blanc explore a surreal side of portraiture with the artist wanting to manipulate the image that we see of him. We never see his face or when we do it is obscured or constricted by his body as if the body is in control of the person and that the face is of no importance to the form of the whole. The saying “a picture says a thousand words” flits through the mist of confusion when I look at these images, they certainly tell many stories if we care to listen. However, it is the hands which draw one in, the idea that you can tell much about a person by the sight of their hands. Rough hands speak to a life of physical work where they have toughened to protect from harm, small delicate hands adapted to control and finesse, the calloused fingertips of a musician honed to their art. It is not just a person's face or body which can convey the life or emotion of an individual, our hands are what allow us to interact with the world around us, be those fellow humans or the natural elements. Perhaps Louis Blanc is putting his forward, for us to observe and connect with the artist through the hands that made it. The man behind the camera but instead the hands behind the artist.

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What makes the Corpus series so striking, aside from the new ways of seeing, is the wonderful use of true black and white photography. Composed beautifully to always have the subject in the centre of frame mixed with the interesting square crop of the images creates a photo which is instantly pleasing to look upon. The simple mix of tone and sharp contrast works brilliantly with the subject matter, we can see every tiny line and crease in the skin giving the photos a very tactile quality. It is an unforgiving light, completely different to our airbrushed and edited colour images in magazines and on the internet. It is a light which this artist is shining on himself, to say ‘this is me, every part tells a story’ The background of this series is particularly important to the images as a whole. These were not taken in a bright, crisp, clean studio space, they are taken on marked and rough surfaces almost like a stone floor. This choice of space really coheres all of the elements together, adding a textured, gritty depth to the photos.

Corpus is a genuinely fascinating series of photographs in which Louis Blanc unquestionably challenges the norm of self-portraiture. He seems to allow his body to move, flow and contort, the forms captured through the images evoke a body expressing itself as if throwing off the chain of facial expression as a singular form of conveying emotion. We see a living entity which we associate as the human form but one distorted allowing itself to explore every aspect of its shape almost appearing to tackle and convey its own very dynamic language.

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Photographize granted permission to feature photos by Louis Blanc

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