Mr Joe Shrigley Jr, président de la nation Navajo
The half-length portrait of Joe Shirley presents a man with a great presence, wearing several items that point to ancestral Native American culture. In this photograph, which is relatively poor in information, the projection screen in the background acts as a clue about the event: Bruno Serralongue went to the second phase of the ‘Sommet Mondial sur la Société de l’Information’ (or SMSI, World Summit on Information Society, in Tunis in November 2005). This portrait echoes another picture in the same series (Native Peoples Claim Their Right to Participate in the Information Society) in which Joe Shirley is just a silhouette amongst the speakers, whereas here he occupies the entire frame. The strange impression that the model is posing for press photographers – and not for an artist making a portrait – reveals the staging of the event along the lines of the ‘discourse of order’ (Michel Foucault). In addition, the painting format introduces a different reading to that of a press photo. The artist questions the point of view and the space: “What distance should be adopted to face an event ? […] In my view, when using a different tool like a photographic chamber, there is necessarily a greater distance. […] In documentary photography, there is this idea of adjusting the distance, so that one cannot see too much or too little. One needs to find a distance within which the photographed person or event can ‘speak’”.
Bruno Serralongue integrates his practice into the processes of production and distribution of information via images. He attends very diverse events such as regional festivities (Les fêtes, 1994), the universal exhibition in Hanover (Expo 2000), a neoliberal meeting in Chiapas (Encuentro, Chiapas, 1996), with a rhythm which is different to that of a press photo-journalist. With no specific accreditation and by using a camera that requires very long exposures, his standpoint is of course different. The artist questions commissions and working methods – he then integrates these as modalities for producing images by instatinga distance between the subject and the personal stylistic signature. According to his protocol for the Faits divers series (1993- 1995), the photographer works on very allusive information extracted from t miscellaneous news item section of the 'Nice-Matin' newspaper; Serralongue goes to the place mentioned two days after the event. As if emptied, the images create a space for representation that did not exist before. In the context of a crisis of representation and the scripting of reality by press images, “the document is a response to the world of images on the actual territory of the images, it is perhaps the only way to oppose the monopoly of spectacle”, according to Michel Poivert (in his analysis of the documentary style in "La photographie contemporaine", 2002), “the photographer and the spectator are reconciled by the adoption of the ordinary man's viewpoint”.