Review by Wayne Swanson •
Many people see melancholy in the dying of the light, but French photographer Philippe Ciaparra sees utopia. At twilight he finds himself “in a chiaroscuro theater, immersed in the daydreams of my inner journey.”
Ciaparra is a Paris-based fashion and portrait photographer, but in his personal work he focuses on long-exposure black-and-white twilight landscapes. Paysages & Transfiguration (Landscapes & Transfiguration) is a collection of these images taken during travels across Europe, the United States, and Canada over a ten-year period. Through the images he explores his inner world and questions his thoughts in relation to the idea of landscape.
In contrast to his commercial work, there are no people in these images. These are landscapes and detail shots of national park vistas and wide-open spaces, urban building facades and rural communities, stands of trees (often barren), and other dusky scenes. Most of the images were taken during the final twilight moments when there is still enough light to capture shapes and forms, but detail is softened, creating a dreamy aesthetic. The effect is accentuated by the grainy look of Tri-X film he uses to print his long-exposure photographs.
The result transforms mundane landscape shots into “dreamed landscapes.” “I therefore invent an improbable season, with a subtle wind and constant freshness, where this twilight light would finally be eternal, I have a way of finding myself alone in front of myself and, in a certain way, of standing up to the illusions of reality.” Ciaparra traces his fascination with the darkened hours to the long moments he spent as a child looking at the night sky. The fascination deepened years later when he spent a winter in the perpetual twilight of Finland. That led him to conceive the journey that led to the book.
The 50 trichrome photographs are well-reproduced on uncoated Munken Lynx paper, allowing viewers to appreciate that there is more depth to the prints than initially meets the eye. The simple, classic design of the book presents the images at a size of 6.5 x 9.5 inches, generally one image to a spread, with ample white space around them to set them off. Ciaparra’s ethereal if dense introduction (perhaps something is lost in the translation from French to English) encourages us to “see beyond our perception.” The softened details at twilight conceal, but also encourage us to look more closely at the images to find personal meanings.
Ciaparra certainly doesn’t rage against the dying of the light. He embraces it.
Wayne Swanson is a Contributing Editor and a San Diego-based fine art photographer and writer.
Paysages & Transfiguration, Philippe Ciaparra
Photographer: Philippe Ciaparra, born Marseille, France, resides Paris, France
Publisher: k éditeur, (Paris, France, copyright 2019)
Introduction: Philippe Ciaparra
Text: French, with English insert
Cloth-covered hardcover book with tipped-in photo, sewn binding, trichome lithography, 12 x 12 inches, 96 pages, 50 images, printed in France
Photobook design: Rina Sherman and Philippe Ciaparra
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