Interview: Michele Grimaud
Luca Curci talks with Michele Grimaud during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2021 – 14TH EDITION, at Misericordia Archives.
Michelle Grimaud cut her teeth in the world of photography and cinema as an autodidact. Following an internship with Françoise Huguier, she assisted the photographer Karl Kugel within the framework of “The Year of China” at the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, then completed an internship in New York, with Gilles Peress (war reporter at Magnum NY agency). In 1992, Michelle won the Ilford Prize. In 1994, she was a finalist in the competition organized by the Villa Médicis Hors Les Murs, sponsored by Jean Larivière, photographer for Louis Vuitton, Claude Nori from Editions Contrejour as well as by Adrienne Clarkson. She had her first exhibition with her cousin, Pascal Grimaud, at the Church of St Laurent in Eygalières. Space and time are already her favorite themes (Unpopulated Snowy Eygalières Landscapes and Algerian Wastelands). This would be the inaugural exhibit in the Church, a place transformed into a cultural space by Félix Pélissier. She has collaborated in numerous film shoots as assistant director, production manager and finally head of production. The films in which she participated mark her desire to flourish in the 7th Art such as “Les Amants du Pont Neuf” by Léos Carax, “Le Destin” by Youssef Chahine, “La vie de Jésus” by Bruno Dumont, or even “Will there be snow at Christmas” by Sandrine Veysset. After ten years working in production with various companies, she created her own production company, Amphitane Films. It then ensures the executive production of fiction films and the executive production of documentaries such as “From day to night” or “ChennaiWood”. She is enrolled in the John Truby screenwriting workshop. Today, Michelle Grimaud works on her own film and photography projects. She is currently completing her documentary “Ursula Hanes, une vie”.
Luca Curci – How did you get to photography? Do you remember why you took your first professional photo?
Michele Grimaud – My parents gave me my first camera when I was 7 years old because I said when I entered elementary school that I wanted to be a photographer. In the beginning, I learned as an autodidact, then I made some training courses and I was a laboratory assistant, then I took my camera and made a lot of pictures of my friends at school, of my animals, of landscapes. I participated in a few competitions, including the Ilford Prize for which I was awarded in 1992. It is while preparing the Villa Medici “Hors les murs” that I learned to direct my projects and to transmit my feelings. I won the first prize of 150 francs when I was 15 years old. “The photo is the foot!”.
LC – When you take photos, are you usually inspired by the situation or do you find inspiration in yourself?
MG – I only take pictures when I feel something, when what I see gives me a real sensation and is inadequate with my psychological state of the moment.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
MG – Photography is for me a way to externalize my feelings, my joys, my sorrows, the loneliness, the beauty, what touches me.
LC – According to you, what makes a good photo?
MG – For me, a good photo is subjective, because everything depends on who looks at it. Salgado once told me: “If you make a picture that fits my world, then I will find it beautiful, if you make fashion, for example, I will not like it, but that does not mean anything because your picture will be maybe very beautiful, just it will not please me”. I think this is the truth.
LC – Which details do you focus on?
MG – I don’t focus on a detail, I work on instinct.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
MG – For me, the role of the artist is to testify of a moment of life; but it is valid especially for the reporters of war and street. In the beginning, I did a lot of street work, now I am more on the emotion of an image. It can reflect loneliness, joy, sadness… but my main thread is always time, untamable, revolting and fascinating; there are photos that we also make for ourselves, to externalize, but that are so personal that to show them would not bring anything. For example, I made a series in a hospital when my father was very sick. The photos are very beautiful and aesthetic, but to expose them would bring only suffering to the spectators then what interest?
LC – What do you think about the theme of the exhibition? In which way the photos presented are connected with its theme?
MG – I don’t know what to tell you because the theme of the exhibition is, it seems to me, a free theme. On the other hand, the choice of the works is rather coherent in the whole at the level of the universes and I think that my images are in connection with the other works.