Exhibition: 17 Mar – 30 Apr 2021
Galerie Esther Woerdehoff
36 rue Falguière
+33(0)9-51 51 24 50
Thierry Cohen's photographic work questions the relationship between humankind and its environment. After criss-crossing the planet nomadically for his highly acclaimed photographic series Darkened Cities, the photographer was forced to live in strict lockdown between 17 March and 11 May 2020, like billions of other human beings.
During this time, he opened the drawers in his studio to find a box containing 19 arrowheads from the Neolithic period, entrusted to him by some friends a year earlier. These stones had been carved by people who had become sedentary more than 4,000 years before our time, and whose early settlements were being decimated by epidemics: these stones became weapons.
The arrowheads tell us the story of a radical shift in our relationship with the living world; they tell us about the early days in our exploitation of nature – and the first steps towards its progressive destruction.
During lockdown, when our relationships with others and the world was restricted to screens connected through digital networks, Thierry Cohen photographed these arrowheads and began the long process of connecting and bonding his images with texts that he had selected from his daily readings online. He associates each of the 19 arrowheads photographed with an excerpt from a press article or essay that questions a planetary lifestyle where consumerism dominates, together with the toxic effects on the body, the emergence of zoonotic diseases, and the power of nation states and their representatives.
What arises from this work are the traces of the photographer’s own, unique lockdown, which echoes an almost global one: an inversion of our former lives as a direct result of the health crisis caused by the outbreak of Covid-19.
The disconcerting beauty that radiates from these photographs, the mystery that these stones hold, and the ghostly presence of the human hand, brings our past to light, as well as confronting our past with the state of the contemporary world and triggering a reflection on a possible, desirable future.
Born in 1963, Thierry Cohen has been working as a photographer since 1985 and was one of the first photographers in France to focus on digital techniques applied to photography. As a portraitist, he worked for major record companies and for the press, photographing personalities from the arts and entertainment. Since 2006, he chose to devote himself primarily to his personal work. In 2008, with the Binary Kids series, he questioned the future of the next generations exposed to digital networks and technologies, both sources of and consequences of economic growth. From 2010 to 2019, travelling to megacities and deserts, he worked on the creation of Darkened Cities, to reveal the starlit urban landscapes and to raise public awareness on the issue of light pollution, a consequence of human activity. Carbon Catcher, the series he launched in 2018, questions the relationship between humanity and its environment and the importance of forests as carbon sinks, essential to curbing global warming. Beyond the spectacular magic of his images, Thierry Cohen uses the possibilities of digital photography to question the future of cities, the over-consumption of energy in our Western societies and the place of humanity in his environment.