Valérie Jouve

1964 | Saint-Étienne, France
Valérie  Jouve — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Rana Mosa Abu Kharbeesh

— Galerie Xippas

French photographer and video artist.

Arriving at the forefront of the arts scene in 1995 with characters posing in an urban environment, Valérie Jouve carries out rigorous work on the theme of the city, a territory that she describes as “extraordinary”. After discovering photography during her studies in sociology, she studied at the school of photography in Arles. She usually uses a heavy view camera, spending a lot of time with her “characters” and not taking many images, which she presents in large format, to scale, to create a face-to-face encounter with the spectator. Among her influences, the artist mentions Richard Avedon, Eugène Atget, August Sander, and Diane Arbus, representatives of the documentary tradition and original portraitists. Michel Poivert writes of her work: “The gestures are restrained and the body positions hardly correspond to an expressive typology, but more to an in-between.” Her characters are dramatised; all elements of the setting, figures, and composition show the discrepancy between “collective and individual awareness”, as the photographer explained in an interview in 1997. The question of space is central: passers-by and façades from Paris, Marseille, or New York, traffic jams, people leaving their offices, and cigarette breaks on pavements all provide occasions for creating series of contemporary photographs for this artist who seeks to “wander through [her] era”. At the heart of the contemporary comparison between photography and the social sciences, the artist orientates her stagings of urban individuals towards sociology and anthropology. Her photography presents urban alienation more than it denounces it: description and detachment take precedence. Like today’s new generation of photographers, undertaking a spectacular return to documentary form, such as Rineke Dijkstra or Andrea Keen – who exhibited with her at the Centre National de la Photographie in 1998 – the artist uses the photographic image as a means of investigation of urban societies.

Her first images – Untitled no. 5 (1991), a black woman shouting, and Untitled no. 23 (1996), a woman in profile, in movement, open-mouthed – were staged images. The movements, almost abstract, seek to attain a sense of universality. The photographer does not hesitate to make use of virtual retouching, cutting out photographs of passers-by from their backgrounds for example, in order to eliminate the elements that confuse the composition of a scene and highlight her main character. Through her interest in collective housing, motorways under construction, commercial zones, and peri-urban suburbs, she is sometimes perceived as a photographer of the banlieue (city fringe and its related social issues), but she has detached herself from this image with her most recent works. She has thus created a considerable body of work on Arab and particularly Palestinian cities and territories (En Attente, Centre Pompidou, 2010). In Résonances (2012), she presented excerpts from her travel diary and writings from residencies since 2008. Also a video maker, with Grand littoral (2003) she presented a documentary film – despite its obvious staging – focusing on a territory surrounding a supermarket on the outskirts of Marseille. In 2006, she created Le temps travaille and Time Is Working Around Rotterdam, which shows a journey across the Dutch territory on the TGV line. Her films resemble contemporary road movies without words or stories, seeking, like her photographs, to create visual compositions verging on abstraction. Represented by the Anne de Villepoix Gallery in Paris, the documentary work that she undertakes, both in video and photography, brings landscape photography and architecture up to date by questioning contemporary positions and urban behaviours.

Anne Reverseau

Translated from Jouve by Anna Knight.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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