Stéphane Couturier, the French photographer who was recently shortlisted for the Prix Pictet, once said that the greatest picture he never took was “the birth of matter.” Heavy stuff — but then again, Couturier’s photographs have always dealt with big themes. ‘Melting Point,’ the 2006 collection for which he was nominated this year, consists of 20 large-scale, long-exposure photographs taken at a high-tech Toyota plant in Valenciennes, France, and is indicative of what Couturier calls his documentation of “urban archaeology.”
For these photographs, which are more than four feet long, Couturier spliced together images from various points and times in the assembly plant, and then stitched them together to document a whirling, automated motion in which human figures and machines are all intricately involved in a dance of mechanical production. The process calls to mind some of Andreas Gursky’s work, but instead of strong grids and teeming human populations in a typical Gurksy photograph, Couturier blurs and disfigures, adding layer upon layer of obfuscation that still manages to evoke the entirety of the process.
Over his career, Couturier has photographed building facades in Brasilia, Barcelona, and Havana, and a construction site at the Grand Palais in Paris. Through July 28, several of his photographs will be on view as part of a group show at Laurence Miller Gallery in New York.
(c) Stephane Couturier, Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery