About The Cover

January – February 2010 About The Cover

BY Lyle Rexer, January 1, 2010

Just a few years ago, it seems, Lenny Kravitz conjured a generational anthem when he sang, “I want to get away, I want to fly away…” The kids in French photographer Denis Darzacq’s photographs want to get away too, sort of, or at least they want to capture an instant of freedom in a society that surrounds them, cocoons them in the often spurious choices of the marketplace—a full supermarket of interchangeable products that seems to go on forever. Darzacq, who won a World Press Photo Award in 2006, recruited street performers to cavort among the brightly lit shelves of cereal and shampoo in actual supermarkets. Like a veteran sports photographer, he captured them in mid-flight, as in our cover photo, and often at what seem moments of suspension. These photos caught the eye of Laurence Miller, whose gallery is one of the oldest continuously operating photography galleries in New York. “I loved their exuberance,” he says, “and they opened up a whole chain of references reaching back into the history of photography.” Miller will display 15 of Darzacq’s images, under the title Hyper, as well as images from that chain of references, in a two-section show from January 14 to March 27. For Miller, Darzacq’s pictures fit into a rich tradition he calls Body Language (the title of the second part of the show), that includes everything from Lartigue’s photo of a woman leaping down a flight of stairs to Cartier-Bresson’s famous image of a man puddle-jumping and Kertész’s Satiric Dancer. Aaron Siskind’s divers are there, as are Garry Winogrand’s cheerleaders. Closer in direct visual reference would be South African Robin Rhode’s He Got Game series of videos of a basketball player enacting spectacular dunks on an imaginary basket, and Robert Longo’s photo-based painting series Men in the Cities, from the 1980s. Yet Longo’s figures, detached from a background or context, appeared more than anything to be in their death throes, like Belmondo gunned down in Breathless. Darzacq’s kids, on the other hand, have the appearance of defying not only their confinement by capitalism but gravity itself. In some of the photos they seem to float parallel to the ground, and it is hard to believe they have not been Photoshopped, as, say, some of the figures in Sam Taylor-Wood’s recent studio photographs. “The context in which these kids can express themselves is limited, confining,” adds Miller, “and that makes the images all the more forceful.” Darzacq is well aware of the broader limits in French society. In an earlier series, La Chute (The Fall), he posed his subjects against the dull backdrops of Paris’s suburbs, where the supermarket is the face of a routinized world. No wonder then, that there is also an undercurrent of desperation to these pictures, for the first rule of gravity, although photographs would try to annul it, is: What goes up must, eventually, come down.