Who are these roosters?
They are fighting cocks: roosters bred and conditioned for maximum aggressiveness and combativeness.
Obviously, such roosters are likely to trigger plenty of questions about the animal kingdom, the relationship between nature and culture, all heavily featured in the arts… or, to jump from one idea to the other, about animals in the making. Like so many approaches made possible by what photography shows.
They are also symbolic roosters – how could things
be otherwise? Such a "solar" bird is in essence universal. In addition
to its character – proud and vain –, it is known in various civilisations or
cultures to herald sunrise, the victory of light over
darkness. They are stimulus-roosters, pretext-roosters,
precious-roosters, ornament-roosters, bait-roosters.What shooting methodology did you follow to create this gallery of portraits?
I set up my shooting studio in various locations: ranches, fairs, azoteas… In each of these locations, I used the same grey cyclorama with flashes placed at 45°, a little like the setup for a photo booth or a copy stand – a standardised and mechanical device. Except that here, an assistant poked each rooster’s head through a hole in the backcloth small enough to “hide” the trick with feathers. After a brief cosmetic preparation (a quick combing, a bit of oil on the skin), I photographed them front and/or profile, in the manner of Bertillon’s anthropometry.Why did you choose to isolate them from their context and just shoot their head against a grey background?
The grey background trick is a form of mise en abyme of the photographic process. While the cyclorama clearly delimits the photographic space, I was also eager for this form of decapitation to amputate the photographic image (possibly from the pathos often associated with the subject). It was a case of “come forward, look, in silence”; I should also explain that I envisaged this work from a very visual angle, and that there’s a big difference between seeing it published, exhibited or hung on a wall. To stand there opposite a rooster’s head, aggressive, colourful, and made all the more defiant by its size, elicits a disturbing physical reaction.
In a way, this work slides from a photographic image to a more streamlined, symbolic and ornamental depiction, revealing its weapons of seduction.You lived in Mexico City for several years. What was its influence on your practice and culture of the image?
It’s true that Mexico City can strike an untrained eye as uncanny. It’s a fantastic laboratory of forms and signs, which indeed exerted an influence on me, quickly and decisively. English anthropologist Edward B. Tylor reflected with some degree of amazement and disbelief (in his travel journal Anahuac) on the incessant, sometimes irrational clash of situations or singularities. This is equally aptly identified in Le Clézio’s The Mexican Dream, which describes the uncommon clash or massive collision between a magical civilization (the Aztecs) and European civilization of the Renaissance. Perhaps this seismic land is a place where, here or there, you can still shake a little from the aftershock…
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