Date : 2005
Medium : Photography
Size : 100 x 100 cm
The title of every photograph is a first name, which is a way of emphasizing the fact that, far from being predatory in his approach, Pierre Gonnord knows each of his models and their history. For him, the artistic encounter always goes hand in hand with the human encounter.
Text : Carole Vantroys.
Translation : Pamela Hargreaves.
“Black eyes gaze out at you ….”
A three-quarter view portrait of a young man, perhaps 33 years old.
Who could he be, with such an air of mystery and nobility?
He is mysterious because this portrait lacks any temporal clues. If the use of the photographic medium did not tell us we are in the contemporary world, there would be nothing to let us date the image with any certainty. The leather tie under his beard, the only external element in this stripped-down composition, could just as easily be a contemporary accessory or an ancient one. It tells us nothing.
The mystery remains intact with the neutral black background, from which emerges a magnificent play of light and shadow that recalls Caravaggio and the great Spanish painters of the 17th century, Vélasquez and Zurbaran.
Then consider the extreme purity of the composition:
A large, 1m by 1m square format,
A tightly framed subject
A limited palette: black, brown, light olive skin, the sensual pink of the subject’s lips.
Note, too, the quality of the shot and of the print, which the photographer never retouches. We realise that Pierre Gonnord uses all the means at his disposal as a photographer to elevate his subject, even giving Leone a Christ-like air.
The artist is delivering an important, serious message, a reflection on the people society has left behind. He seeks his subjects, often disfigured outsiders, among the outcasts of society. But Leone’s profound and gentle gaze is one we cannot forget.