I would usually write about the photography on the walls, but not this time. I went to the Alain Willaume exhibition at FIAF because I had never heard of Alain Willaume. The photos are both weird and engaging. They made me feel slightly uncomfortable. It’s hard to hang a show in a small gallery space like the Alliance Francaise in New York. This exhibition promised “an immersive installation” and it delivered. François Hébel is the curator of the gallery. I wanted to talk to him about the installation of the show. He agreed.
PO: How did you come to be curator of the gallery at FIAF?
FH: It was the kind request of Marie-Monique Steckel and Lili Chopra that asked me for an idea of a coherent program for their gallery. I offered to create a long term program to give french contemporary photographers a visibility they do not have in NYC.
PO: What attracted you to the position?
FH: The quality of the other cultural programs at FIAF, the kindness of the people and the chance it represents for the photographers.
PO: It’s a small space, it must take a lot of creativity to create exhibitions that have their unique character?
FH: Maybe this is why we tend to put large prints inside, to challenge the space and it works quite well. It is three blocks away from major photo galleries, such as Pace McGill or Howard Greenberg, FIAF has a natural public coming by all day either for french school or events.
PO: What was the genesis of the Alain Willaume show? Were you familiar with his work before the exhibition?
FH: I have done other projects with Alain in the past in France, China, South Africa and India. I thought America was about time. I knew he would accept my request to install his work in a different way, picking up pictures in his projects, to create this kind of intense fresco.
PO: How did the work of Alain Willaume “dictate” the design of the exhibition? What was the process that brought you to creating the exhibition?
FH: I have always been interested in installing photography in space and using alternative ways to the usual frame. This goes back thirty years and when it fits the work, I always suggest to the photographer that photography is not just a conformed product for sale: i.e. a fine print in a frame, but may be a projection, a wallpaper, all sorts of alternatives that would fit better his work.
PO: How much input did Willaume have on
the exhibition design and arrangement of the photos?
Let’s free photography, as long as the work is good
it can allow many types of presentation.
Alliance Francaise Gallery
Friday September 15 – October 28, 2017