Isabelle Thibeault-Jolin Sainte-Sophie, Québec
Isabelle Thibeault-Jolin is an artist living in Québec, Canada. She takes both analogue and digital photographs, sometimes linking both in photographic collages, and her style is largely narrative and explorative. In her photographs, Isabelle often documents cityscapes at such a scale that the human presence is reduced, making people look almost like toys, and the clash between the artificial and the natural, using usually unnoticed, seemingly mundane elements of everyday landscapes. Isabelle is interested in the processes of perception and memory. She uses photography as a way of documenting how the world around her affects her thoughts and molds her experience.Thus, her approach is at the same time very personal and universal.
Written by Zosia Krasnowolska and Isabelle Thibeault-Jolin.
Isabelle Thibeault-Jolin was chosen by Farhad Bahram
Laatikkomo’s interview with Isabelle Thibeault-Jolin January 23rd, 2014.
L: Where are you from? (What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?)
IT-J: I am from Québec, Canada. The magnificent landscapes, interesting cities and villages of my country do have an influence on my art. For example, the series Country of Dreams was taken on the north coast of Quebec and focuses on the dreamy aspect of the landscapes. The series Rebuilding our Cities, Reshaping Reality was taken in a city where I was living at the time. Photography for me is a way of appropriation; I try to grasp, understand reality, and then recreate it to make it “my own”. It’s a two-way process: this re-creation is then giving me insight about myself; my fantasies and thought process having guided that re-creation in a somewhat unconscious way. In that sense, the place where I am will always have a strong influence on my art, I believe.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
IT-J: I don’t have that many early childhood memories, but I remember looking at photographs of my early childhood when I was still young. I remember a feeling of almost remembering what was pictured – or was I creating a “false” memory from the images? This confusion between memory and fantasy, the impact photographs have on shaping a memory, stroked me then, and still fascinates me.
L: In your blog one of your posts discusses your relationship to taking pictures, and how through the camera you are interested in extracting the context from the reality of your photographs, and you also talk about illusion and surface. Could you explain your relationship to the series you are showing in Laatikkomo: Are you interested in creating your own narratives for these images, or are they more about abstract or textual surface?
IT-J: I think of this series as open narratives. There are a lot of diptychs and polyptychs in it, which are perfect to convey an idea of dialog, time and story. For instance, having the same view in three frames, but with someone coming in and out of the frames, does make you want to think of a narrative: where is that person going, what is she thinking? But the narrative is open, stories are only suggested as possibilities and the viewer is free to make up his own. Photography is an appropriation of reality for me, and I hope the viewer will go the same way and interpret or appreciate my images in his own personal way. This process of appropriation implies a decontextualization of the subject that is photographed.
L: Many of your photographs seem to be double exposed and have a dated look to them. What kind of process goes into making your images?
IT-J: I do like the “faded memories” or “dreamlike effect” of double exposures and “dated looks”. I have many ways of working. One of them is to shoot with a digital camera, and then add textures or other post-processing effects with Photoshop. This is the process that was used for the Rebuilding our Cities, Reshaping Reality series. The second way of working is to shoot with an analog camera (including toy cameras and Polaroid) and then scan the negatives (or positives). I then use Photoshop if needed, for example for cropping, creating polyptychs, etc. I also have a darkroom at home, where I develop black and white prints and photograms.
L: You are now the 4th artist in the Laatikkomo link 1. The first artist in link 1 was interested in the relationship between photography and memory. Are you interested in the distortion or preservation of memory through photography?
I T-J: I would say both. There is a paradox about photography and memory. When you take a picture, you are not “living the moment”, you are in the act of “preserving the moment”. The camera creates distance between the photographer and his subject.
I’ve read an interesting article lately – I can’t remember where – about the impact on memory of taking pictures with phones and other numeric devices. Studies show that taking pictures of important moments and never looking at the pictures afterwards can impair the memory of those moments rather than enhance it. Indeed, the act of looking at pictures is important – to activate the connection patterns in the brains. Otherwise, we rely on the picture to “remember for us” – and simply forget!
L: Could you list five or more words related to the work you are showing in Laatikkomo?
IT-J: Urban, Scale, Construction, Reality, Anonymity
L: I recently watched the film “Marina Abramovic- The Artist is Present” a documentary directed by Matthew Akers. At one point in the film, the MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach talks about how he treats Abramovic’s performance pieces like sculptures. Is there another, different, medium or art form that your work could be compared to (poetry, for example)?
I T-J: Poetry is a good pick. I sometimes even write small poems related to a particular image. The other one that would come to mind is painting. I’m often told my photographs look like paintings. I studied visual arts, and do paint form time to time. This must have an impact on how I compose a photograph, and on my post-processing, too.
Thank you very much Isabelle!!