You work with techniques that are considered unique. Why did you step away from traditional photography?
If we think of photography beyond the prisms of film and digital, we gain in plurality in terms of forms and spaces where it can exist, and this opens the door to environmentally friendly processes. This does not mean that it is not traditional photography. In fact, this type of process had already been described in the papers of John Herschel (who discovered the cyanotype technique and sodium thiosulphate, the fixer used by Henry Fox Talbot) in the 19th century.
But it is a process that has been ignored because it did not favour the capitalist exploitation of the medium. Chemical photography – the easiest to market – prevailed. So, I use techniques that already exist, and others that are not yet known, to explore all the photographic materials that are not meant to document, but rather to reflect and research.
What different techniques do you use?
In Making a Photograph, I document the photoperiodicity of plants in order to weave links between photography – a process that gives a simple result – and the annual change in the pigmentation of plants. In The Act of Producing I use chlorophyll printing, based on selective leaf bleaching – a technique dating back to the 19th century. In Family Album, I use chlorophyll production: the opposite process.
Ecology is at the heart of your work. How do you reconcile your commitment with your profession?
I don’t. It was through artistic production that I started to think about the impact of my practice. I think that as an artist, you have to ask yourself: “How can I make others interested in what I produce? Why do I even do it?” Because we’re in the midst of an environmental crisis that makes us question ourselves. Are we contributing to a conversation to really rethink ourselves, or is it just to please our artistic ego?
You address several topics, such as reproduction and motherhood, by linking them to nature. What are you trying to question?
There is a lot going on in nature. It is diverse and complex, but often overly simplified and thought out as a strategy to dictate to people how they should live their lives: “this is natural”, ”that is not”… In Offspring, I use the selective reproductive strategy of plants to express my views on motherhood. Not wanting to have children would normally be classified as “unnatural”, whereas plants reproduce according to the context – similarly, I don’t want to be a mother because of the environmental crisis we are experiencing.
Do you consider yourself a feminist artist?
I am a feminist. All these labels, “feminist artist”, “committed artist” are viewed as radical. But I would say that what is truly radical is the opposite: to exist within an environmental crisis and have absolutely nothing to say about it. To live with racial justice issues and refuse to express your opinion. Being clearly aware of gender discrimination and injustice and not wanting to speak up. Constantly looking the other way when these issues affect us all and are omnipresent in our lives. Instead, we should use the labels “uncommitted artists”, “non feminist artists”, and start assuming that being a feminist is normal and not being one is radical. Why not let the others – so comfortably set in their silence – carry the weight of these labels instead!
How important do you think the female gaze is in art?
I don’t think we need the female gaze, but a feminist gaze. It doesn’t matter if someone considers themselves a woman, a man, both or neither. There are so many men and women in many fields – including the arts – who are happy not to achieve equality that we have to be wary of oversimplifying the discourse. For me, the better question to ask would be: how does a body of work contribute to questioning a subject?
Who are the women artists who inspire you?
Lia Giraud, Liz Nielsen, Zanele Muholi, Lisa Oppenheim, Susan Derges, Dayanita Singh, Sophie Ristelhueber, Jananne Al-Ani, Helen Cammock, Núria Güell…