Using old traditional photographic techniques for her new exhibition in Paris, the artist looks back at the beauty of the artisanal gesture to enlighten our society’s growing distanciation with matter.

In conversation with
Mathilde de l’Ecotais

Mathilde de l’Ecotais is visiting two old photographic techniques: the photogram, a photograph made without negative, and the cyanotype, a photograph made from a cyanide solution brushed and coated on paper. Seduced by the Prussian Blue beauty, characterising the cyanotype, as well as the photograme’s printing process magic, Mathilde de l’Ecotais takes up with the photography pioneers experiments. She puts her technical proficiency in those old techniques at the service of her subject, highlighting their interactions. The prints uniqueness and sophistication reminds us of our fragile world, the beauty and usefulness of what it produces, as well as the beauty of this perfectly skilled artisanal gesture.

rawness: What is the purpose of your current exhibition1 in Paris?
Mathilde de l’Ecotais: In design, art and science have always been tied. I’m doing the spilts between two old photographic techniques and my current research. I felt in need to link it with these traditional craft gestures, slowly disappearing with today’s all-digital photography. I found a similarity between those ready-to-eat vacuum-packed food products and digital photography: we do not feel, touch anymore; there is a distanciated relation to the product. I put gestures, chemistry, mixtures, smell back in my work… Above all, I was attracted by this blue which almost doesn’t exist in cuisine and enhances my words: is a tomato still a tomato because it’s red and round? What if I blind-taste it ? What if I read the list of the products that helped it grow? Not so sure we wouldn’t see it blue!

r: What’s changing, what are the links with your previous work?
MdE: In a certain way, this work is a continuation to my 2011 exhibition where I was shaping metal parts grabbing the prints, to symbolize the over processing food industry.  I had already initiated a different approach to my photography work by adding volume to the prints. With « Between Earth and  Sea: Cyanide and Fresh Tomato», I flirt with “instant” painting: within a single gesture, I layer the emulsion which will develop under the light. Alike last year, I’m interested in the value of uniqueness : in this world where everything is duplicable, I like the value of uniqueness.

r: Why using these old techniques? What do they add ?
MdE: Heritage in photography allows progress and creation. Everything, everywhere, is interdependent, after all.

r: Why these two techniques?
MdE: I was first seduced by the Prussian Blue, then by the piece’s uniqueness and the gesture:  these techniques allowed me to mix all what built me.

r: What is the meaning of this artisanal gesture you re-visit?
MdE: It is simply not duplicable, it’s about a special mood, a decisive moment.

r: We’re far from food matter. Far from the single resource. How does the technique takes you closer to the matter (is there any dialogue?). Is there a ‘beauty beyond its own’ in this matter? How does it carry your message?
MdE: We are very close to the matter, we feel again, we touch, we smell again in the making process. It’s like when you get your grub on. The prints are developed in vinegar, the smell is close to the developing bath. Working in the dark, waiting for the magic of the developing, the perfect gesture, the mixtures, finally I feel very close to the matter!


1- «Between Earth and Sea: Cyanide and Fresh Tomato»
Galerie Au Fond de la Cour, 49 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris.
25 October- 15 December 2012