an investigation of identity
Jean, Christine, Margaret, Stéphane, Robert, Flora : strangers, young people, old ones, passers-by who stop him or whom he stops . Why this one rather than that one? The curve of a nape, the radiance of a complexion, nothing else, or rather yes, this rare moment, this emotion, this flash which gives birth to the desire to make an image. For each of them, every time, Eric Nehr imagines and paints the background in subtle tones, far from the usual range of colours.
In the studio, in front of the camera, the model strips naked, exposing himself (or herself) to the point when the person merely appears, without any make up or jewels, or clothes or requisites. Eric Nehr decides the pose, always a head-and-shoulder photograph, in profile, facing, the camera or three-quarter turned, so as to emphasize what appealed to him : the length of a neck, the oval of a face, a kind of presence, of strangeness. Natural daylight rubs out the dramatization of definite chiaroscuro ; only a slight haze sometimes wraps the figure. In spite of this frontal choice, neither pretence nor affectation, much gentleness, much modesty as well emanate from these photographs of unknown people, called by their Christian names.
The size is in no way gigantic, as in fashion ; the work does not yield to the facility of a series, but makes clear the close relationship of this meeting. You give yourself up to the enigmatic nearness to this other one who is exposed without being revealed, offers a smooth surface in the light of subtle subdued tones, with a matt aspect thanks to the printing (ink jet printing) , and the only possible echo is that of your own voice.
Every geographical or social sign, every psychological element being smoothed away, those photographed by Eric Nehr are beyond the points of reference accepted and shared by a whole community, from Roman busts, Florentine or Flemish paintings, to Nadar’s shots and mere pictures in a photo booth. As a result, we feel uneasy, for, what is it all about : Eric Nehr puts, facing us, this other one who, without seeing me, looks at me, who, without saying anything, questions me, who , with no context, no history, compels me to build up my own. It is a strange experience to notice that in turn some think this one sad, or tense, or serene or dreamy : the mirror image of everybody.