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Romain Kronenberg in the formal simplicity of photographer Robert Adams

Romain Kronenberg has an extraordinary career: after two years at the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Geneva, he studied jazz and electro-acoustic composition. Composer and sound designer at IRCAM in the early 2000s, he met artists like Ugo Rondinone, Pierre Huyghe or Melik Ohanian. A new horizon opens up to him: video. After a stay in the Pavilion at the Palais de Tokyo, he further enriched his practice, approaching performance, sculpture, photography, writing. In recent years, his projects have given birth to disturbing stories, whose characters navigate between novels, films, fetishes … Ghostly presences, which accompany him for years. But it is above all as a photographer that he defines himself, in the wake of the one he admires so much: Robert Adams.

Photographer Robert Adams chronicled the American Great West, and the destruction of these landscapes by man. How does this figure inspire you?

More than by its pioneering discourse on ecology, I am struck by the modesty of its manufacturing process, its ability to make images with little means, without effect. When Adams photographs the daily life of Denver, for his project Our Lives and Our Children, in the late 1970s, his images seem innocuous. However, what he denounces is the threat posed to the city by the nuclear weapons laboratory of Rocky Flats. In his images of children, onlookers at the mall, we do not perceive any apparent threat, and they are all the more tragic. Adams’s intention is in our consciousness, not in his clichés. His photography simplifies what there is to see so that it is more easily understood. It is the place of causality.

Is his “Essay on beauty in photography” (1981) just as inspiring in your eyes?

This book was a revelation. I stumbled upon it by chance, around 2012. I was coming back from a residence in Japan – is there a link? In any case, I was struck by this desire to create order, and meaning, in our labyrinthine world. I read it three times, and I never remember the same passages, I evolve with it. He wrote in particular this luminous sentence: “Why is the shape beautiful?” Because, I believe, it helps us to counter our worst fear, that life could be nothing but chaos, and therefore our suffering will mean nothing. “ I like this simple word which conveys something complex. This is what I try to strive for more and more. I like big words, but I don’t like to like big words. So I learn to use little words, to stage simple beings. This book calms me down and empowers me.

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