What is a “hyper-real” photograph?
French artist Jean François Rauzier describes it as the “stitching together of hundreds of thousands of photographs”. And he should know, as it was Rauzier himself who ‘invented’ the term. “It’s not exactly photography, it’s painting photography.” he explains “With a digital painting I can do exactly what is in my mind”.
A professional photographer for around 40 years, Rauzier is currently showing a collection of eight pieces at the beautiful gallery Art district, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, just off the Arc de Triomphe. Using digital software, he takes his images and pieces them together into a sort of hyperreal puzzle. The St Aignan Church @ Orléans, an Indian office building and even the staircase from the hotel itself, Rauzier finds his inspiration from around the world, from urban landscapes, metropolitan architecture to natural panoramas.
It’s a question of dimension and detail. Each piece is composed of between 600 and 3,500 individual photographs, impressive from far away and breathtaking when up close, with a zoom far more powerful than the human eye. In Angelica (2010) for example, even minuscule book titles are discernible, drawing you in as far as you can go, and further.
But it’s not all just clever photographic art. Rauzier has a clear sense of artistic humour. There is a conceptual as well as dimensional depth to his work. After building the scene, he adds images from his own vast library, creating an existential element. Lions, ravens, priests, all manner of motifs appear in the pieces on display here. The viewer feels as if Rauzier is inviting them into a private discovery of a parallel world, where everything is infinite.
A favourite of mine in this collection is Molitor 2 (2010), from the collection “Paris”, courtesy of the Paris-Beijing gallery. Here, Rauzier takes the abandoned swimming pool in Paris’ sixteenth arrondissement, which was used for exhibitions and a plethora of artistic activity until it was recently bought for renovation. The detail in the graffiti, as well as the linear urban dimensions suit his technique perfectly. Julie Eugène, the Art Concierge at Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, explained that eight versions exist, and each has one minute difference; both a way of marking them individually and also a nod to the customer. One client’s daughter, for example, had her own graffiti tag, and so Rauzier discreetly integrated it into the piece. Unrecognisable to anyone else, the composition becomes unique and infinitely special.
This exhibition is not only special because of the incredible pieces it is currently hosting, but also because of its setting. The gallery has a discrete and exclusive feel to it, and thankfully avoids what could be an easy pretentiousness. Choosing to display the compositions on photographic paper as opposed to fabric frames stays true to the original medium. The end result is a striking collection of pieces that provide new discoveries at every angle.
“Hyperphotos are the realization of an old dream that would be impossible without digital technology: to see the big picture and at the same time the close-up, to stop time and be able to examine all the details of the fixed image.” Jean François Rauzier.