Six questions for
Clémence Elman

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Clémence Elman.

Artist Clémence Elman
Lives in Arles, France

How do you describe your own art practice?

In my artistic approach, I constantly go back and forth between fiction and documentary, the two feed off each other and the way I make them communicate and how I question the border between the two, how to document differently (with contemporary problematics) is always the point of departure from my projects. With this process, I tempt to introduce a double narration; that of the territory -mental or physical – studied and that of the photographic process that takes place. I use photography as main medium and text, rather narratives or theoretical.

Which question or theme is central in your work?

I am interested in the social group, be it my family, the upper middle class, vacationers, expatriates, etc., which are entities to which I am connected, to which I belong. Which leads me, by extension, to question the construction of identity, our relationship to the “Other” and to our environment. I recently mainly broached these topics through the question of exoticism. I often use humor or irony in the way I photograph, I would say it’s also a roundabout way to speak about complex things or social phenomena that are not always easy to verbalize. 

I constantly reassess my relationship to “my subjects” and my legitimacy in dealing with such and such subject; I therefore also take into account the representation of these questionings about the photographic process in my work.

What was your first experience with art?

My parents always took us, my brothers and me, to museums, which I found very boring at the time, especially the archeological museums that my father was fond of. When I was about fifteen my mom started taking me to photo exhibitions and I remember it felt like a relief for me. My grandmother was constantly telling all kinds of stories extremely well, she was wrinting children’s books and inventing board games, I think that her influence not insignificant in my work today.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Everyday life anecdote or observations, things or stories I imagine. I can have an idea because of a book I am reading. I feel more inspired by cinema, literature or pop culture than photography. 

When I start a project, I concomitantly read theoretical texts – mainly sociology or political sciences in general – and I wander a lot, I observe what’s going on outside, in the street, what people do or say, how they dress, I am looking for places for my staging, etc. 

What do you need in order to create your work?

I need my camera, people who wants to work with me, stage for me, and build stories with me. To have the freedom to move around. To talk with friends and make up stories. To see the work of other artists. 

Anything that feeds the imagination.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

I recently saw again in the same exhibition works from four photographers I like. The series With my family of Hans Eijkelboom, where he knocks in the afternoon on stranger’s doors and assumes the role of the father figure in other people’s family portrait, when he supposed the husband and father were at work. Gentlemen from Karen Knorr which portrays the patriarchal values of the English upper middle classes and associate images to texts coming from speeches of parliament and news. Dean Lawson who creates intimate representation of Black bodies and Adi Nes with his work Soldiers where he photographs young men performing as Infantry soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

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