There’s no denying in the current Maison Europenne de la Photographie exhibition that Laetitia Casta is extremely beautiful and that the photographs of Dominique Issermann are done very professionally and are themselves visually quite beautiful. Likewise, the installation is quite pleasing and dramatic.
Sadly, for all the beauty of the model and the talent for capturing light and composition of the photographer, the series is not particularly interesting and falls prey to the common weakness of fashion photography–notably that there’s nothing there beyond the decorative aspect. I’m being a little harsh as there are some clear efforts to create a sense of mystery in some of the shots. However, there is no in-depth research in this project and little true inspiration and even less passion.
Dominique Issermann is a very talented technician, she even has a nice feel for creating a mood. The final images are quite beautiful, the installation in the galleries of the MEP are very professional. However, the work–and especially the model–is presented with such a reverence (there are as many as twenty stools left in the gallery to offer all the worshippers a comfortable opportunity to spend as much time as they need to take in the beauty of Casta and the genius of Issermann. This is a truly laughable choice in the gallery–and almost as ridiculous as having installed a map at the entrance to show all the special spots in the thermal baths where the photos were taken so that each visitor can take note so they might, themselves, make a pilgrimage to the sacred location where the photos were taken. Pathetic!
Naturally the MEP wanted to focus some of this period’s exhibitions in the fashion realm to coincide with Fashion Week in Paris. But it would have been nice, instead of seeing a weak performance by a big headliner, to see something fresh by an up and coming photographer that might push beyond the standard fashion/beauty imagery.
As a side note, while on the surface I’ve always appreciated how the MEP dedicates its various spaces to artists at different stages in their careers, I must admit to some real disappointment when I see the museum devote its precious space to displaying work by a non-photographer like Marc Fumaroli who presents truly and embarrassingly weak photographs. He’s an intellectual and critic, not a visual artist! With all the remarkable talents there are out in the world that never get a chance to present their work in such a context, it’s a shame to waste it like this.
The MEP is a museum and while much of the time it presents an interesting cross section of exhibitions it often seems to fall short of upholding what seems to be the mission of a museum which would be to present a full cross section of photographic work that is of high quality and interest.