Public Scenes

by Raymond Viallon

Galerie Vrais Rêves, Lyon, France

Contemporary photography is increasingly dehumanizing and willingly turns towards sanitized images that showcase living spaces more than the people inhabiting them. The reasons are obviously related to the right to image, which disturbs photographers and editors. Only staged scenes, with the models' or actors' permission, allow one to escape these constraints.

Michael Michlmayr's current work has the merit of bypassing these difficulties and allowing us to rediscover unconstrained human warmth. However, it must be admitted that the initial encounter with his photographs is strange. A discomfort, a disturbance engulfs us. Is it staged? With mannequins? The faces of these "models" lead us to think so, especially since we sometimes find these same faces in other scenes. However, conversely, these snapshots surprise with their realism. So what is it?

A very important post-production process allows for this diversion. Indeed, Michlmayr also photographs the faces of mannequins in stores in parallel, paying attention to lighting, tilt, and head position. His subsequent intervention on "public scenes" only concerns faces. He superimposes the anonymous and stereotyped faces of the mannequins onto the faces of real models. The realism of the scene remains intact, and the doubt about the faces continues to pique our curiosity. We do not quickly move from one image to another... Michlmayr compels us, through this artifice, to a more deliberate, deeper gaze, and we can only rejoice in it.

Is this also his way of making us aware of the depersonalization of our fellow citizens? Are we all interchangeable then? Perhaps it is necessary to ponder this question in the 21st century...

Henri Cartier-Bresson had also accustomed us to this type of profound gaze. This astonished gaze that reveals a snapshot more strange, more unexpected than the best of staged scenes. That is why we, at the Vrais Rêves Gallery, believe that we should present the work of this young Austrian artist to you and invite you to discover it.


"The realism of photography creates confusion as to what is real" Susan Sontag