Vasantha Yogananthan: Mystery Street
The Fondation HCB presents Vasantha Yogananthan’s new project, the fifth winner of Immersion, a French American Photography Commission from the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès. Conducted in New Orleans, the Mystery Street series bears witness to the prolific imagination of children in the warm and steamy atmosphere of the city in the middle of summer. Between documentary photography and fiction, Vasantha Yogananthan proposes an in-between, where reality offers a diversity of possible narratives.
There is a time in life, during the transition from childhood to adolescence – say between the ages of eight and twelve – when everything rapidly starts to change. This is the age of transience. Vasantha Yogananthan has already focused on this brief and transitory period of life in one of the first series, on a beach in the Camargue region of southern France. As part of Immersion, a programme dedicated to contemporary photography of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, the photography dedicated to resume this exploration in New Orleans. The vivid memory of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city’s position below sea level, and the looming threat of water engulfing the city due to global warming, make it a place where awareness of the transitory is particularly heightened. In Mystery Street, the child becomes a living metaphor for the core of the city.
Vasantha Yogananthan works with the very substance of the real. He is one of those photographers whose intuition is their compass. He had no preconceived ideas when starting this project. He sees the act of photography as a means of learning about the world. His images are not illustrations of what he already knows, but opportunities for new insights. This was not about providing a philosophical, political or poetic concept through images. Instead, it involved discovering the subject while photographing. However, discovery is rarely the result of a decision. It is more likely to occur in situations of experimentation, play, chance; instability, or chance. For this reason, the transience of New Orleans and the age of these tiny moments of epiphany that the photographer was able to capture so magnificently.
The curators of the exhibition are: Agnès Sire and Clément Chéroux, director, Fondation HCB.
The exhibition is accompanied by a French-English bilingual book published by Chose Commune.
About the Author
Since 2009, French photographer Vasantha Yogananthan has developed his photographic approach to carefully respond to subject and place. The photobook has been central to his work since he began which has led him to co-found the publishing house Chose Commune in 2014. Yogananthan’s own process has been developed whilst working on the major independent projects Piémanson (2009-2013) and A Myth of Two Souls (2013-2021) which have been published and exhibited internationally. In 2022 spent the summer in New Orleans creating a new series as part of Immersion – a French-American photography program by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès.
Yogananthan has received several awards, including the prix Levallois (2016) and ICP Infinity Award as Emerging Photographer of the Year (2017). In 2019 and 2021 his books Dandaka and Amma were respectively awarded the Rencontres d’Arles Photo-Text Book Award a Juror’s special mention at the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Award. Vasantha Yogananthan is represented by Jhaveri Contemporary (Mumbai), The Photographers’ Gallery Print Sales (London) and Assembly (Houston). His works are included in public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (Paris), The Musée de l’Elysée (Lausanne) and the FOAM Museum (Amsterdam).
Immersion, a French American Photography Commission programme created by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, supports contemporary photography in France and the United States of America, through the making, exhibition and publication of new photographic work.
Each year, within the framework of a partnership between the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson and the International Center of Photography in New-York (ICP), an artist’s residency results in a solo exhibition at each of the latter institutions. The exhibitions are accompanied by a bilingual photobook in English and French. After the Fondation HCB, the exhibition Mystery Street will be presented at ICP in September 2023.
Launched in 2014, Immersion, a French American Photography Commission is an annual programme featuring residencies, exhibitions, and publications. On a yearly alternating basis, Immersion is open to a photographer based in the United States, who is mentored by an anglophone professional as they create a new photographic work in France, followed by a photographer based in France, who is mentored by a French professional as they create a new photographic work in the United States.
Vasantha Yogananthan: Mystery Street
From 5 May to 3 September 2023
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson – Paris – France