What do they have in common?
Well I was talking about the artists around Manitas del Plata in a previous post, and one of them was Lucien Clergue.
He is a photographer from Arles, who judging by his portfolio, grew up among post-war destruction and poverty. His earliest images show a sad, noir decadence. But he was also close to the gipsies of Arles, where he met among others Manitas del Plata, and it might have been him who brought this musician to the attention of his fellow artists and friends. Due to this, you can also find casual photos of Picasso and Cocteau on his site.
(Manitas is the man on the left, the one in the middle is José Reyes, the other father of the Gipsy Kings.)
And for his early portraiture of destruction, he has used surrealistic imaginary: a dead fish, profaned crosses or crippled mannequins:
But Clergue is more than a documentary photographer. Like Picasso, he has developed a decidedly geometric approach to visual expression. First he has studied what plants, sand, water ripples can do to your imagination, if you shoot them close enough and if you choose the right frame to your motive. Take a look at these:
Sand cracks showing a face, accidentally resembling cubist faces? Sand and its shadow giving you the impression of a tree? And this last one, could have been painted, too!
But recently Lucien has discovered a new level of abstraction, more intriguing, as it plays with the less abstract thing there is: the human body.
Of course he chose the female form for his experiments, and he conveys a strong sense of eroticism through his pictures, but his artistic approach might still be the same: he’s experimenting with artificial forms, applying them to nature. It’s because of this last step Lucien has taken, that I put him among the “great”, for you can’t simply forget such a composition, once you have seen it. It’s a unique statement and beautiful too:
What do naked bodies and zebras have in common? Lucien Clergue has combined their characteristics to a new idea, to an artistic metaphor. If you want to see more, go to the website run by his daughter Anne: