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Jean Marc's living books

The artist’s tireless work is inspired by passionate belief in the power of books, intended as a living organism carrying personal and collective histories

Imagine an exhibition that inspires you to pick up a book and read. Opening at the Alliance Francaise on September 20 is Jean-Marc Godes enchanting exhibition. Inspired by the world of Jacques Prévert, Jean-Marc Godès is a photographer who specializes in the images of books as an instrument for reading. For ten years, his photographs have been exhibited all over the world: from France to Guinea, through Ireland, Canada, Lithuania, China, and Portugal.

Born in Guadalupe but a citizen of the world, Godès has focused on the universe of books as a form of homage to both his father – who was a writer – and poet Jacques Prévert. He describes himself as 'director of still images'. In fact, each scene depicting the living books in action is carefully staged before taking the picture so that we get a series of stunning still lifes with a modernist message. The artist's tireless work is inspired by the passionate belief in the power of books intended as a living organism carrying personal and collective histories.

In an interview, Godes says: "As a visual photographer, director of still image, I realise an artistic work dedicated to the promotion of the book and writings. My approach is part of a photo-poetic perspective. My objective, by challenging the imagination, is to arouse the desire to continue or go back the course of ephemeral stories that I tell, the time of a freeze frame, the time of a photograph. The singularity of my artistic research is to question norms by producing staged photographs located on either side of the borders of reality."

"The subject of my representations is the book object, in various forms. Living books, escaped books, they are the memory and the vehicle of our personal and collective stories, of our identities as well as the words and the desire of the "other" lying on a paper box. Libraries and centuries are abolished for the benefit of a fluidity of space and time. The heart of the book, from image to image, without noise."

All of Godès' mises en scène are pervaded by a sort of magic realism. His photo-poetic celebration of books calls for interpretation of simple things in troubled times. At times they trigger the need to 'decode' the situation behind them but each image is an equivocal lesson in learning and the beauty of books that runs as a thread through the universe. Advocating a poetics of the image, he does not impose a pre-established meaning by its author. His images become universally accessible because he gives us a variety of interpretations through human cultures.

"In a world dominated by the image, by a gallery of portraits, along a dreamlike journey, I build uncertain worlds that participate in the reading of reality. At the crossroads of photography, literature, and poetry, my digital constructions are a tribute to the music of time and the colours of life," adds Godes.

Godes unites borders of the real and the imaginary, he piques the interest of audiences of all ages. His photographs arouse strong desires to continue the course of stories that are stopping on the images. Starting from these moments suspended in time, each image is like an educational echo. Evocative elegance flows out from these images. My favourite is the mountain sheep and master looking at the pages of a book. Indeed a book is the window to a world. At the crossroads of art, photography, poetry, and literature, the social and cultural utility of Godes photographs underline and affirm the importance of literacy.

Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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