An Interview with: Laurent Henrion
So tell me, how did 'Monolith' begin? What sparked the desire to study "desire"?
I started my series "Monolith" two and a half years ago, from the moment I finished my photography studies.
So far, I have always started the process of creating a series in the same way. First of all I choose a subject, even if it seems to me each time as an obviousness. Surely because, with hindsight, it is always linked to my experience of the moment. This time it was the theme of desire. Once my subject found, I immerse myself in it for weeks, months. To do so, I spend my days looking for visual and textual references to feed my imagination in the end of being able to punctuate indeliberately my strong symbolic images.
It was during this phase of research that I began to feel my connection and my questioning to the complex feeling of desire. We can speak of a cliché. But at this point, I think especially that it was inevitable in any case to approach the subject through my work. I have always had a complicated relationship to love and attraction. I think I did not really understand myself for a year. Leaving to adopt a metaphorical tone as in my images, I would only say that I am a lover of people and benevolence. A lover of passion itself.
Within the spectrum between Eros and Thanatos, do you see Monolith as leaning toward either in particular? How does this reflect your approach to photography as a whole?
I will illustrate this famous relationship between Eros and Thanatos quite easily by mentioning two examples of short texts that I wrote in parallel with the production of the series. I think they can be both quite explicit:
"Impulses overwhelm me. Fertile land, my doubts go up the trunk, I pray not to consume myself."
"The wound still gaping, I'm dragging myself in the shade. This fight is obsessing me. I do not know exactly what I'm fighting for. I am afraid of exile and turns into ecstasy at his touch. dream of forgetting I return to the path, a martyr of my own desire. "
I will tell you that this strange tugging between the life drive and the death drive really permeates my work. Maybe because life is already punctuated by this kind of dualities. It is when there is a tension, a confrontation, a spark that it interests and animates me. While I am at the base in clear search of serenity.
The passion comes from times to literally consume me. I speak of my relationship to pure desire, the desire for an elsewhere and my desire to create simply. While I am rather basic in search of serenity.
Tell me about your influences (classical / abstract painting, Japanese prints etc) and how they've shaped the perspective of your own work.
I have always been inspired by all types of imagery. It would be very hard for me to give you a precise recipe of what I get from my inspirations but in any case I know that they mark my work. The lights, the colors, the poses, the forms and the atmospheres: all these elements find their roots in my references. I can quote the painter Jacopo Pontormo for example. It is clearly part of my direct inspirations.
I will also add that having nourished myself with references from a wide variety of fields has helped me to shape "my own world" and "my own codes". Dare I say that thanks to that I fill my "vocabulary" as and when. Because if there is one thing that I pay attention to, it is to disseminate recurring symbols in my series so that a unity is drawn.
Has 'Monolith' come along as planned, or have there been obstacles in the way?
The series "Monolith" is finally still in production even though I could have closed it for a long time. But, having the desire to achieve a sense of concretization, I would like to see this work exist in the form of a book. These things take time.
And indeed, there were pitfalls. Nothing extraordinary for the process of an artist in my opinion. I went through a depression of several months that was partly due, I think, to my introspection work related to my series. The scheme was quite similar to my old work "The Murmurs of Icarus", which addressed the feeling of floating, this kind of strange constant tugging between the top and bottom as metaphorical as physical.
Your abstractions of the body and environment bring certain contradictory moods together, such as youth and timelessness; truth and obscurity; sincerity and playfulness. Do you see the work as having an objective definition, or a constant oscillation between these varying states?
I actually like to play on ambivalences. Even if it's indelible most of the time. As in my life in general, I can not stand the boxes. I can not bear the idea of pretending to be able to define something or someone in a categorical way. I like to think that the world is only change and evolution, ambiguity and ambivalence.
What have you been working on beside Monolith, and what's coming up for you in the future?
It's been two years since I graduated from photography school and two years since I started "Monolithic". Never has a job accompanied me so long day by day. It almost ends up becoming an extension of myself. The metaphor may be too cumbersome, but I can not express it otherwise.
I had the opportunity to share excerpts of the progress of my series a few times. Especially at the museum "La Boverie" in Liège and I will expose, I hope, a completed version in June 2019 at the "Satellite Gallery", in Liege also (Belgium).
Finally, I do not yet have the precise idea of my next job. Even if the theme of mourning seems to me already to be the logical continuation.
Is there a particular book, photo book or movie that shaped the way you see things now?
If I had to remember a work that really marked me (my friends will laugh while reading this because I'm pretty monomaniac about it), it would be "In the Mood for Love" by Wong Kar-wai. This is the first time I really felt transported and changed by a movie. I will never be able to explain exactly why. But the conjunction of music, acting, lights, colors, compositions touched me right in the heart.
You may have already told me, but can I ask where you graduated from? And what were the greatest lessons you learned there?
I studied photography at IATA (Namur, Belgium) and at ESA Saint Luc (Liège, Belgium). I learned a lot. In particular, I learned to find my own way of working, my approach. The art school is also, in my opinion, the best place to quickly face his ego. And it is very important to master this, especially in our field. I am also delighted to have had the opportunity to confront some areas of photography that I would never have approached otherwise. At first, I only wanted to do the staging. But the school has opened me to other ways to approach my art.
I also wondered, as a lover of passion and benevolence, can you trace this fondness back to any particular event or time of your life? Or is it still a process of discovery?
The parallel that I could align with my life is quite simple.
I strive, like a mission, to always be kind to others. Always try to act and react with empathy. And more specifically my passionate report: I would say that I am the kind of person "hypersensitive". I react to things with too much intensity sometimes. This brings me some clairvoyance sometimes. But most of the time, when it's sadness, I'm easily overwhelmed. And it's the same for photography. I see each photo and each shoot as an event, a small miracle.
Thank you once again for submitting your work, and I really look forward to continuing our discourse.
Keep up with Laurent Henrion’s work on Instagram.