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"Bettina RHEIMS & Serge BRAMLY: I.N.R.I"
2000-02-02 until 2000-02-04
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
Paris, , FR France

This work by Bettina Rheims and Serge Bramly is made up of 85 large-format photographs which together constitute a reinterpretation of the story of Jesus Christ, from the Annunciation to the Resurrection. This pictorial narrative of the life of Jesus unfolds chronologically from room to room on three exhibition levels at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. A catalogue containing reproductions of all the photos (128 in total) , and the seven chapters of Serge Bramly's text, was produced prior to this presentation.

After Chambre close, in 1992, Bettina Rheims and Serge Bramly wanted to work on a project in which their worlds could once again meet and harmonise.

Their aim was to tell a real story in pictures, with a beginning and an end. They quickly settled on the life of Jesus because it is one of the seminal stories of our culture, as well as being the story for which Western art has produced the greatest number of images.

But would photography be able to recount the entire life of Christ as effectively as cycles of stained glass or frescoes? Was it possible to adapt the narrative to the present day, like Renaissance artists who transposed the story to the Florence they knew, without adversely affecting it ? Was it possible to present the story as a photographic fiction whilst preserving its sacredness (especially given the little prominence accorded to the sacred in modern times) ?

Bettina Rheims and Serge Bramly began by visiting museums and churches, by reading and re-reading the Scriptures and related literature, and by talking to theologians and priests.

From this initial work emerged a basic storyboard, with a card for each scene indicating which symbolic aspects were to be taken into account, the meaning of each character, and what kind of clothes and accessories would be needed.

Some of these scenes had already been the subject of countless paintings. Others, such as the life of the infant Jesus, drew on medieval mystical writings such as the Golden Legend.

The exhibition presents 85 large format photos telling the story of the life of Jesus from the first apparition of the Angel Gabriel to Christ's final Ascension. They are like modern icons harking back to the mystery plays performed in front of medieval cathedrals, as if the Star of Bethlehem had appeared today in the polluted sky of a modern city.


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