Inveterate portraitist, Yves Marcellin challenges the concept of “photographic exactitude”. By enhancing his subjects, he takes this challenge further. An obligation of principle ? This enhancement is at the very least, evidence of the idolization that this mediterranean photographer avows for his female models in a constant and reiterated manner. Yves Marcellin does not produce, strictly speaking, simple “images” of his models, wether he presents them clothed or nude, from far or near, in a landscape or in a close-up. To capture, by means of the camera, their physiognomy in the banal fashion of a reproduction ? No. To go above and beyond realism, is for him a moral obligation. This man makes no secret of his fascination with extreme beauty. He exalts it. He has, clearly a taste for icons.
One profane icon, to be precise. Woman. The women that Yves Marcellin places in his tableaux are saintly only by the magnetism of their image (Inès devant l’église), a magnetism that this photographer, with intention and ardor, ceaselessly renders luminous, literally propulsing it into the eye of the spectator.
The portrait, according to Marcellin, is like the writing of the apocryphal gospels. It is always the result of the work and the combination of elements.
The work : the photographer invariably modifies the first rendering of the image (Vivi chemin des Patapans),he tinkers with it and adds features (Nu en mouvement), he decides to superimpose it on another image, he deforms it by creating multiple emotive entrances (Lost). The combination of elements : a pretty woman as Yves Marcellin represents her photographically not only has the aspect of a fresh flower, a sublime lily, but also by the intermediary of allegory, in the sense that one likes to arrive from the idea of physical freshness to that of feminine beauty : rather, she is, she becomes a flower. The result is that a feminine face is, in the same image, combined with the image of actual flowers, surpassing the metaphor (Inès Fleurs 1, Inès Fleurs 2…). The portrait thus mutates in this instance into a metamorphosis, it nourishes a fantastic universe. The powerful esthetic emanating from the image is simply mesmerizing.
Can one say that photography, thus understood and practiced, is a sort of game with the spectator ? Incontestably. The artistic creation as Yves Marcellin perceives it, supposes a formula (Nue perdue dans un mur), manipulations (Perdue dans la forêt en mouvement), research (Mirage), taking risks (La Chute, Inès dans le bois du Gros Vallat). To seize the real as it is, only moderately interests Marcellin, a practitioner who must be placed in the category of “creative photographers”. Photography ? If it is only to record images, the images ot the world, then one migbt content himself with the title of documentarist, of photoreporter. To play with the fabric of the image is differently exciting and inspiring, to the extent that this photographer, inspired by Messerschmidt, shoots his own self-portrait grimacing, playing the buffoon, to degrade himself, as the ironic brunt of his own representational exactitude.
Degradation is the signifying opposite of magnification, without a doubt, but is the result of the same refusal of realism and its platitudes. The “portrait-vérité” of a Gisèle Freund ? Forget these whims, Marcellin tells us. The portrait, as a genre, is, in any fashion, an interpretation, and always has been. The image lies. It is for the artist to render this lie tolerable and even, in the manner of Yves Marcellin, desirable.
Conceptual photographer, Yves Marcellin’s research and influence stem from a double provenance, one historical and one more recent. Like the pictorialists of a century ago, he treats each of his photographs like a painting. The manipulation of the colors, the optical palimpsests made by superimposition, the employment of certain speed effects or the displacement of signs in his photographs reveal straightforwardly the impulses of the painter in his pictorial intention. The “becoming like painting” of photography is not a fiction nor an aberration, but a logical evolution : one can photograph like one paints, definitively.
Second influence of which the images of Yves Marcellin bear witness : the trend of “art photography”, which affirmed itself as the end of the 20th century. This was a rejection of the obsession with objectivity and the conceptual photographers absorbed by the conquest of the “Candid Eye” or of the “Street Photography” which meant to show us the world as it really is, without being influenced by any subjective viewpoint of the image-taker… The “art photography”, on the other hand, inaugurates the regime of the composed image, not as a reflection mimicking the world but as phantasmagoria. This adopted regime is, in this case, that of the creation, pure and impure at the same time. Pure, because that wich counts is to arrive concretely at the dreamed-of image, in an antirealist or idealistic perspective. Impure because, refusing the impenetant insistance that photography be a “proof” (the “ça a été” of Roland Barthes), here we turn our back on the imperative to witness and report.
The portraits of Yves Marcellin, in sum total ? A libertarian game of enthrallment with the image of the body, in which the result is, often enchanting, and always: fascinating.
Contributor to the reviews Art press et Archistorm, Paul Ardenne is the author of several books dealing with current aesthetic: Art, l’âge contemporain (1997), L’Art dans son moment politique (2000), L’Image Corps (2001), Un Art contextuel (2002), Portraiturés (2003). Autres publications : Extrême – Esthétiques de la limite dépassée (2006), Images-Monde. De l’événement au documentaire (with Régis Durand, 2007), Art, le présent (2009), Moto, notre amour (2010), Cent artistes du Street Art (2011). He is also a novelist: La Halte, Nouvel Âge, Sans visage, Comment je suis oiseau.