Violaine Chaussonnet Strasbourg, France
Violaine Chaussonnet was chosen by photographer Vera Schöpe
Laatikkomo’s interview with Violaine Chaussonnet April 14th, 2016.
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
VC: I am from Lorraine. For me, this region of eastern France represents a free and wild space : the Lorraine is the region of prairies (and not cultivated fields!) : I have walked in the tall weeds, crossed barbed wire, penetrated into forests where I have gotten lost, where I experimented with Rimbaud-like meandering… It is also a nostalgic region : we can see traces of some industrial activity from the past, there is a sense of abandonment, the ”it used to be” is strongly felt in this region.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
VC: My father would take pictures. I remember some very beautiful images of me as a child. Later when I was 11, I received my first camera. It fell down the cliffs of Verdon and I saw it slip into the deep water. I took up photography 10 years later with my father’s came. Since then I have been followed by this same curse: I break all my cameras…. for the longest time now I have used an old camera which doesn’t work very well (one out of two photographs is no good) …
L: Many of your photographs depict views of nature, often of one region that you are visually exploring through a kind of documentation. What inspires you to choose a specific place to explore?
VC: I am not really interested in specific geographic locations, it is always a bit by coincidence that I photograph in such and such place, wherever life takes me.. in Auvergne, the Malaptie farm was chosen for me (by where my finger randomly lingered on a map) in Brazil, I went arbitrarily into the forest following guides.
The question is really: why do I stop at this place? That is more difficult to identify. There is a kind of particular energy in certain places, with certain people at certain moments… I think we all can feel it. And I imagine that it resonates with each one of us differently. I am particularly sensitive to certain kinds of landscapes, for example I have been attracted by the undergrowth for a very long time, the impenetrable walls of vegetation and rich, wild exuberance, the abundance… to go inside the wilderness, to disappear, to change personality, to make yourself wild… I am also interested by childhood, nakedness as a manifestation of an original purity.
L: As a whole, your series presented in Laatikkomo is like poetry. The lines of a foot, a child daydreaming, the branches of a tree, at the same time seemingly random and carefully chosen. Other than photography, what art forms inform your work?
VC: The apparent randomness is quite real : the ground soil of my work is life with all its riches, its surprises… life is random! And it is just that, that I love in photography, that we do not start with a blank page, but rather enter into life’s flow and extract substance: and that is where, yes, I choose very carefully. Because this very richness of photography can also be its demise: often there are too many images, not enough choice. The work is to make an image visible, by selection, that concentrates all that is defused in the river of life : the beauty, the richness of the world, the fragility, something that touches eternity within all that happens. It is research.
The other forms of art are poetry (Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Bonnefoy…), mysticism (Etty Hillesum, Simone Weil…) and painting (Cézanne, Gauguin, Redon, Séraphine…).
L: Solitude seems to play a part in your photography, as if you are observing humanity from the outside. Is this a feeling you are consciously working with, or is it the direct result of the particular landscapes you are working in?
VC: I am happy and surprised that you saw this in my work… the feeling is very present when I take photographs. I photograph when I am taken by the present, by the beauty, the fragility, the next disappearance. I take photographs knowing that soon I will no longer be and neither will my subjects. But it is not a sad or nostalgic feeling. It comes from everyday life, concerns, diversion. It sanctifies the present.When I photograph, I am both very present, I am what I see : this colour, this light, this positionnement of the body in the space… and at the same time I am far away, a bit, as I image, in the eye of God.
L: What main questions or thoughts would you like your work to inspire in the viewer?
VC: Keep your eyes open. Be there.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
VC: Give thanks – keep beauty – death – the fall – hope –
Thank you so much Violaine!!