Léa Chauvel-Levy

About : A PPR OC HE  (1st edition), November 2017

As mid-november is photo season in Paris, this year a new Salon settled in the private mention, Le Molière. Approche appears as an invitation to investigate the photography  medium and reviews crystallised interpretations through out 14 artists invited as 14 approaches to photography (13 artists represented by their art gallery along with an invited artist). Approche examines : What is photography today ? Co-founded by Emilia Genuardi and Sophie Rivière, the artistic direction goes to Léa Chauvel-Lévy. Discover her words on the first edition of Approche which took place from 9 to 12 November in Paris.


How would you introduce Approche in one sentence ?

It is a merchant Salon designed as an exhibition.


Can you give us more details about your role in Approche ?

I’m the artistic director of the first edition. Sophie Rivière and Emilia Genuardi co-founded the event. One year ago they invited me to curate a photography Salon in a different and intimist format. It was meaningful for me to design a Salon in a new way, away from fairs, without any booths or walls.


What was your main curatorial choices ?

My part was to chose artists, going to their studio, understanding how they deal with the photographic medium. The main goal was to show 14 artists and not 14 photographers in order to show 14 singular approaches of photography.

So we both show academic photographs hanging up on walls and photographs releasing from the frame ; not only rectugular but related to volume and space, bringing materiality. We come up with photographic objects and photographic sculptures which appears to be photographic environments.

In a way, traditional mediums are left behind. We commonly associate photography to paper but from its early beginning it was about experimentation. Artists always looked for new techniques and experimentations. Also, we wanted to mingle photography with camera and without any. For example, if you consider Cyanotype, it’s a direct process, we didn’t need any camera. It’s essential to play around the photography definition which is in continual development.

There is also photography as it expresses for itself and as artists take on with it. Morevover, our wish was to create a community thinking about its history. With this event, artists speak and exchange about their process. The point of Approche is to defend a new definition of photography, showing that it goes out of the frame.


Why is there no partition in between exhibited artists ?

We wanted to take down symbolic walls in between photography and fine arts. We reunited both art galleries specialised in photography and contemporary art galleries as the aim was to start from artists and not from art galleries.

Also, I accepted to be the artistic director whilst it’s a commercial Salon. Although, it’s not obvious for me because I’m not a curator but an art critic. So that’s why it was meaningful to erase boundaries in between photographs from photographers and photographs from artists.


The name, « Salon » recalls a time. Were you looking to bring back a kind of intimate astmosphere for the viewer ?  

Approche appears as an intimate Salon where people come as they would enter a house. It’s important to create a place to discuss and debate around the photographic medium. People gathers here, more or less like it was happening in the 19th century.


What about the scenography ?

It’s all about solo shows with 13 art galleries for this first edition and one invited artist – Paul Créange  – not yet represented by an art gallery. For each artist there is a space understood as a metaphoric room. Each space is dedicated to the artist and its gallery. Eventually, spaces are shared to connect with the exhibition universe and design, away from conventional fairs.


To introduce Approche you wrote a text that reminds to manifesto, defending powerful convictions about photography, can you tell us more about it ?

Yes, first it follows the idea that there is no partition in between photographs from photographers and photographs from artists. I really visualised Approche as an Art Salon, taking down the walls in between photography art galleries and contemporary art galleries. The idea was to gather these art galleries together as they usually hardly exhibit together.

Moreover, experimentation through out photography history opened possibilities to contemporary art. It’s important to aknowledge this. We think it’s contemporary but it was already there. Contemporary art needs photography and it will still need it. Institutions have to consider this to produce exhibitions which widen the photography definition and value its power. Photogrophy occures as an art which also helps to create new ways to some multi disciplinary artists. For example, Anouk Kruithof says that she never thought about photography as a rectangle ; Paul Créange also prints his pictures on plexiglas, it’s same. This is what Approche is all about.


Interview by Fiona Vilmer, writer specialized in contemporary art.
Photographs and text courtesy of Léa Chauvel-Levy.