Harry Gruyaert: a tribute to Antonioni • Harry Gruyaert • Magnum Photos

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Harry Gruyaert Los Angeles. California. USA. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos

Comprising images shot between 1960 and 2004, Variations Under Inspiration is a solo show featuring the work of Magnum Photographer Harry Gruyaert, inspired by the films of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. The works are displayed alongside stills from Antonioni’s movies L’Avventura, The Eclipse and The Desert.

In 2009, The Cinémathèque Française presented Image to Come, an exhibition exploring Magnum photographers’s take on the relationship between cinema and photography. Harry Gruyaert presented his own photographs as poetic projections, excerpts from Antonioni’s movies and a video made by the photographer in the 60s. The pictures from this installation are on display at the Bookstore, Maupetit, côté gallery side. These pictures, shot over several decades, and presented as disjointed scenes, leave interpretation open for the cinematic imagination of the spectator.

Harry Gruyaert Bar. Turin, Italy. 1997. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Café. Town of Antwerpen. Flanders region. Belgium. 1988. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos

“I feel closer to painting and the cinema than I do to journalism. I have seen films whose pictures taught me more that the colour photographs I knew at the time. For example, Antonioni’s ‘Red Desert’. Actually, this was the film for which he painted whole streets to try to create a precise emotion. When I see the work of photographers who stage their scenes, I sometimes say to myself it would be so much simpler to paint a wall like Antonioni did, or to ask a character to wear something different. But I think I would lose the instantaneous miracle of the unexpected that takes your breath away, of the very physical phenomenon of the photograph that suddenly registers. In the field, it is a real battle with reality, a sort of trance to record just one image, or maybe miss everything. It i no a doubt the tension between pseudo-fiction and so-called reality that best describes my position. 

There is something else that links me to Antonioni: in the 1960’s I filmed my girlfriend, whom I was very much in love with, when I was in the process of losing her. She had another lover. In desperation, I thought the best way to prove my love to her was to make a film about her and show it to her afterwards. While I was filming her, I gained some distance, and better understood my relationship with her and her confusion. I became detached from her. At that time, I used to watch “L’Avventura” and “La Notte” a lot, and the way Antonioni filmed Monica Vetti (whom I was crazy about) influenced me greatly.” – Harry Gruyaert

Harry Gruyaert International airport. 1982 © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos