This week’s Alternative Monday post is from French artist and photographer Virginie Litzler, whose career has blossomed since first working with Fermynwoods in 2013. Currently one of our Associate Artists, Virginie recalls her cameraless photography workshops with students from The CE Academy.
I was searching through my hard drive for the name Blossom in order to write about one of my earlier workshops with Fermynwoods Contemporary Art and The CE Academy students. I found three results: Cherry Blossom Girl, a song by the French band Air; the first album by the English band Blossoms; and a photo titled Blossom that I took while being on an art residency in Shanghai in 2015. No traces of the influential Blossom however, the girl from the workshop earlier in year that I still have vivid memories of, and with whom I shared a rude French expression or two.
During the workshops we explored collages, photograms and various ways of making a photograph without a camera. While looking at historic references and examples by other artists such as John Stezaker, the students came up with fantastic creations themselves. During the two days of workshops we would create, play and question the ways that photographs and images impact upon our lives. The days were shaped by the spontaneity, honesty and hugely contagious energy of the students.
The first five minutes were the toughest, with my accent triggering giggles, curiosity, and geographic wonders. At times this first encounter would lead us to become best mates for the day. At others it would highlight some ancestral competitiveness between different countries of origin. Either way, tuning in with the students was key for creating an atmosphere where the students felt at ease and forgot about any disappointment at the absence of actual cameras. I quoted Henri Matisse, that “creativity takes courage”, to overcome the usual expectations one could have when making a photograph.
Blossom took a shine to my accent. During the breaks we would engage in a ping-pong of rude words that our native languages would permit – I learned some fine examples of the English language, and ensured her that the most offensive phrase I knew was impossible to translate. This boosted the curiosity of the whole group who collectively repeated it out loud: “LE SOLEIL BRILLE DANS TES YEUX!”
I might have forgotten to mention the true meaning of the expression and hope to this day they throw declarations of love at one another.