Olivia Lavergne ventures to far-off lands, engaging with the territories she finds there while making them her own. Through her use of chiaroscuro lighting and a classic landscape palette—ochre, green, blue—Lavergne transforms her subjects into photographic paintings.

In an interview, Lavergne described her desire to mix artifice and the real in her work. Inspired by theatrical staging (mise-en-scene), her hyperreal yet simultaneously staged photographs draw us in to a world that is both tack sharp and wholly decontextualized.

To achieve this carefully balanced effect, Lavergne puts a tremendous amount of work into each shot. First comes research into appropriate locations, then the travel itself. Her jungle sites then become full-blown photographic studios in nature—Lavergne brings flash bulbs, stage lighting, multiple lenses and a host of apparatuses that allow her to shape the environment to her liking. Tellingly, entire trips have passed with the ultimate production of just one, single photo.

Despite the meticulousness of her preparations, Lavergne does not feel controlling about the final product, that is, the viewer’s reaction. Her intention is for these landscapes to serve as a space for the viewer to discover their own feelings and sensibilities about what’s in front of them. In Jungles 03, for example: do the leaves in the lower-right corner point you towards the center or keep you out, like an animals’ claws? Such feelings are left for each viewer to explore and decide for themselves—an alliance between the fertile reality of each jungle-scape and the viewer’s own imagination.

—Alexander Strecker

Artist’s Statement
La série “Jungles”, c’est la métamorphose d’une nature luxuriante, de formes végétales évanescentes qui constituent ou reconstituent de l’imaginaire. J’y engage de la lumière et je compte sur sa progression et ses interruptions qui sont aussi mystérieuses que théâtrales.

Le complexe ombre—lumière prend ici la forme d’une architecture mobile : une combinaison de réel et d’illusion.

La majeure partie du travail est réalisée lors de la prise de vue, in situ.

Ce qui veut dire, que c’est déjà : rechercher un lieu qui a—selon mes critères—un fort potentiel de suggestion visuelle et va faire rayonner l’image et ce qu’elle véhicule d’inconscient.

Ensuite, c’est parcourir—à pied !—le territoire pour affiner ma recherche et surtout décider d’une distance et d’un cadre, en me laissant le loisir de travailler à la réalisation et aux choix de la lumière à employer.

Lors de la prise de vue, j’imagine l’événement qui va se jouer à l’intérieur du cadre photographique et je pense à la façon dont le spectateur va ressentir la lumière. La forme qui en résulte peut évoquer le faisceau d’un projecteur de théâtre. C’est un peu faire entrer la nature dans le théâtre! Ou l’inverse …

— Olivia Lavergne


Editors’ Note: Olivia Lavergne’s work,
along with photographs from all the LensCulture Emerging Talents, was shown in an exhibition at the Galeria Valid Foto in Barcelona. See a review of all the winners here in LensCulture.

The winners were also featured at photo festival screenings in Dublin, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Tokyo and Amsterdam so far this year.