Doug MacCash, art critic for the Times Picayune, reviews Louviere+Vanessa’s Folie a Deux.
Wonderful photographs by Louviere and Vanessa
Camera crazy couple
Vanessa Brown thinks that she and her husband/art partner Jeff Louviere may have come up with a whole new photographic technique.
I’ve certainly never seen anything like it.
The pair, who go by the professional name Louviere+Vanessa, begin with a photo of, say, skulls in the Parisian catacombs. They use a computer to electronically dice the photo into thousands of tiny squares, like a crossword puzzle. Then, they film the skull grid, square by square, with an old-fashioned home movie camera.
They transfer the movie to DVD for safe keeping. Though, honestly, the resultant movie isn’t much to look at — just a bunch of grainy gray squares whizzing by. Not a skull in sight.
But the process is only half-finished.
At this point Louviere+Vanessa ruin the movie by snipping the serpentine film into strips, which they painstakingly lay in vertical rows, within a hand-made light box. Now, instead of just thousands of grainy gray frames flashing past, you see a pixelated version of the skulls, speckled with stripes of light from the home movie sprocket holes.
The effect is like seersucker in celluloid.
“It’s probably about 300 hours of labor put into each box, ” Brown said. “That’s including the cutting up of the original image, reshooting that on Super 8 film, transferring the Super 8 to DVD, cutting up the film and laying it out, the construction of the box, the wiring, and adding all the features.”
That kind of labor-intensiveness could drive anybody crazy. Which may be one of the reasons Louviere+Vanessa titled the exhibit Folie a Deux, a French term for a shared madness. But the results are worth the hours and hours of work. The finished photos, which Louviere+Vanessa call cinegraphs, contain elements of high-tech digital art making, obsolete film photography, minimalism, and romance, seasoned with a splash of (sometimes macabre) playfulness.
The dimmer switch on the catacombs light box, Brown said, is made from a human finger bone.
There’s nothing I admire more than artistic experimentation. In the years I’ve known Louviere, 38, and Vanessa, 39, they’ve restlessly sought ways (toy camera films, blood-toned photos, gold leaf prints) to define themselves as anything but ordinary photographers.
“We don’t want to do the same thing, ” Brown said of their explorations. “It’s got to be something that interests us; it has to be new to keep our interest and challenge us.” With Folie a Deux, Louviere+Vanessa have taken their boldest step yet into the unknown. Let’s hope they never step back. Their shared creative devotion has made them two of New Orleans’ most exciting artists.
A Gallery for Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 504.568.1313.
Hours: Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 6, through Jan. 31. Prices: Each cinegraph is $15,000 and comes complete with a DVD of the film from which it was made.
Arts writer Doug MacCash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3481. For more art stories and videos, visit www.nola.com/arts.
The original article appeared in the Times Picayune on Dec 25, 2009, and is available online here: www.nola.com/arts/index.ssf/2009/12/wonderful_photographs_by_louvi.html