On first glance, the work of Thibault Hazelzet might not look like it belongs at Paris Photo. The works—created by the 38-year-old French artist and presented in a solo show at this year’s fair by Galerie Christophe Gaillard—look more like paintings than photographs. The experimental series, imposing in size and at turns lush and stark, hints at Hazelzet’s educational background and his earlier career as a painter.
Hazelzet graduated from the École des Beaux Arts de Versailles, with a diploma in painting, and began showing his work at galleries in France, England, and the United States—but he was already beginning the transition into photography. His approach is unconventional: instead of capturing reality, he invents it, manipulating negative prints, reflections, screens, and textures in the workshop, and creating images that are finalized on the negative. The resulting works are large-scale silver prints, from the towering Soldat #9 (2011) and Autoportrait recyclé #15 (2011) to the geometric Ascension #3 (2007) to his most recent works, including the abstract L’atelier, Calais #1 (2014) and L’atelier Calais #28 (2014), which are being exhibited for the first time.
Galerie Christophe Gaillard, which has done much to advance the photographer’s career since taking him on in 2008, reveals new works by Hazelzet at Paris Photo. In 2009, for his first solo show, Hazelzet produced a catalogue with a preface by Quentin Bajac, chief curator of photography at MoMA. In the years that followed, the gallery showed his work at Paris Photo, helping to garner the active support of French contemporary photography historian Michel Poivert. But you could argue that Hazelzet is growing with the gallery as much as the gallery is growing with Hazelzet. Much like the artist’s transition from painting to photography, Hazelzet is now experimenting with sculpture, too. The gallery displays these sculptures alongside his photos—understanding, wisely, that the techniques of one medium can inform the other in exciting and unexpected ways.
Thibault Hazelzet's solo show by Galerie Christophe Gaillard is on view at Paris Photo, Nov. 13th-16th, 2014.