Denis Darzacq is drawn to the contradictions he sees, or would like to see, in everyday life. Indeed his past series have reflected this — bold naked people walking through bland and conformist suburban housing estates, groups of immigrants in the classic and serene poses found in French masterpieces, French youths appearing mid-flight or mid-fall in bleak, unpopulated urban landscapes.

Darzacq’s practice includes press photography. Just last year he won the prestigious World Press Photo Award. It is intriguing to see how his “anthropological” press photographer’s eye and sensibility makes its way into his fine art work.

His newest series, Hyper, is concerned with the binary between being and having.

Hyper refers to the Hypermarkets (French equivalent to our supermarkets) in which these works are shot. Darzacq was drawn to the trashy, pop nature of the Hypermarkets and the hyper coloured background they provided.

Here he explores the idea of the body in levitation, using straight photography and no PhotoShop tricks. Shot in Rouen with subjects sourced from a casting call in the area, these images offer a sharp juxtaposition, as sublime, almost-spiritual bodies float within that epitome of mass production and mindless consumption.

There is humour here too, as these young people appear to achieve the impossible — levitation — in front of products claiming similarly unreachable outcomes, such as perfect hair, eternal youth, a slim waist no matter how much you eat, a germ-free home……

Not all these bodies are in calm repose, however. There are those caught as if in the aftermath of a violent act — a punch, a throw, a kick. Darzacq tells me that areas around Rouen have had a bad reputation for youth violence — and so here we see this played out quite dramatically, almost ballet-like in the clinical, normally “safe” environment of the hypermarket.

For me, someone who hates going to the supermarket and avoids it all costs, these images are especially surreal — for here they are devoid of the chaos and hubbub of the usual grocery shopping experience, goods are within easy reach, aisles are clear. And in my mind the young man leaping in front of the stack of trolleys is doing so because he has found one without a dodgy wheel and an annoying squeak.

These images are also disturbing. It is hard to believe that they are real — a young man in mid air, snap frozen like the vegetables in the aisle he is hovering above? But Darzacq is playing with us. We are being manipulated, but not in the way we think we are. They are both real (in the sense that the image has not been doctored) and not real, since what we are seeing is the fraction of a second of a body in motion — an image impossible to contemplate in reality.

It is these types of contradictions that of course make life and people  — and photography — so fascinating.

— Amy Barrett-Lennard, Director, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts

This text has been adapted from the remarks made by Amy Barrett-Lennard for the opening of exhibitions by Denis Darzacq at the Perth Centre for Photography, 5 April 2008.

How does photographer Denis Darzacq make these photos?

Watch this 7 minute video from a similar project that Denis Darzacq created in the Paris suburbs. Video is courtesy of the artist and Agence VU'.