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Fragments of History

Fragments of History: Panoramas by Luc Delahaye
AMSTERDAM  •  Huis Marseille  •  Ongoing
These monumental panoramic photographs were made on the scene of events that have dominated international news since the last three years: the trial of Slobodan Milosovich in The Hague (2002); conflicts in the Middle East (2002), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003); the disrupted G8 conference in Genoa (2001); and the first commemoration of 9/11 in New York (2002). The work is ongoing – each year four or five images are added.

Luc Delahaye (1962) has been reporting on international conflicts as a photojournalist since the 1980s. Affiliated with the Magnum Photos as a nominee since 1994, he has been a full member since 1998. He is also under contract to Newsweek Magazine, the American weekly. Delahaye has become known for his photographs of international hotbeds in countries like Lebanon, Israel, Croatia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and the Republic of Chechnya. He has won various awards, including the Capa Gold Medal (1993, 2002) and the World Press Photo (1993, 1994, 2002). For number of years now, he has also been investigating the fundamental roles of photojournalism and documentary photography in longer-term projects. In 1997, he made the book Mémo, in which he collected the pictures of war victims that in 1993 appeared daily in the obituary notices of Bosnian newspapers. Closer to home, he took pictures of anonymous people on the metro in Paris between 1995 in 1997 for the book L’autre. In 2002, the Rotterdam Kunsthal exhibited his photo series Winterreise, a melancholy coverage of poverty and decay in post-Communist Russia.

One of the themes Luc Delahaye focuses upon in these lengthy projects is the tension that the (noticeable) presence of the photographer evokes in the photographic image, a theme that can also be found in the panoramas. Here, he combines a detached, timeless documentary style – peculiar to historical paintings – with the urgency of a direct witness – peculiar to photojournalism. It is as if the photographer sees the event becoming history in his lens even as he shoots the photograph. From the many photographs he takes home from his journeys, Delahaye has very carefully selected images of a decidedly autonomous nature for this series, images that elevate the event above the issues of the day. Often the composition of his photographs is frontal and orderly, with a great wealth of details, in order to intentionally create a distance between photographer and subject. The nature of these panoramic photographs is in sharp contrast to the often fragmentary and incidental character of news photos. This difference betrays Delahaye's fascination for his 19th-century colleagues such as Roger Fenton. But he has also studied the spectacular realism of monumental 19th-century historical paintings. Like such paintings, the panoramic photographs in this series call for a physical experience: they are expressly meant to be seen in a museum or some other (monumental) space.

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