Isabelle Le Minh Mounts an Experimental History of Photographic Theory
German-born, French artist Isabelle Le Minh is an ideal candidate to address the shifting, sinewy contours of modern photography. Employed first as an engineer, Le Minh began exhibiting photographic essays extensively in 1993. Later, upon further reflection, Le Minh drifted away from traditional photography to create conceptual works based on a broader understanding of images and how they integrate with our culture.
For her exhibition “Stranger than Paradigm” at Galerie Christophe Gaillard in Paris, Le Minh has assembled a broad survey of mixed media experiments centered around the careful consideration of a single question: What is photography? The exhibition addresses the fluctuating meaning of a medium that has undergone significant changes in the last few decades, as digital technologies have made image creation and consumption far more accessible—and as the cultural understanding of photography itself has shifted from the translation of reality onto paper into something far more complex. Drawing on her formal and technical expertise, the artist has employed a variety of techniques and unusual materials in order to address the mercurial, constantly evolving nature of her chosen medium.
In the exhibition, works are pushed to levels of abstraction that render their subjects barely recognizable, as in Piercing (2015), where the artist studded a large-scale image with miniscule holes by hand. Others offer playful conceptual tricks based in photographic realism: in the diptych Rebond (2015), circular images of individuals shooting in the direction of the lens are ripped through with carefully placed bullet holes.
Throughout the collected works runs a line of inquiry that folds together the interconnected histories of great thinkers on the subjects of photography and subjective truth, with certain photographs dedicated specifically to Roland Barthes and Charles Baudelaire. For her “Objektiv” series, Le Minh photographed metallic lenses on fine art paper, dedicating the installation to the famed German photographers and art critics Bernd and Hilla Becher.