J´étais là was debuted with an exhibition at the Leica stand in this year's edition of Paris-Photo. The works, produced at the same time by the two photographers during a residency at the GwinZegal arts centre in northern Brittany, look into the hidden nooks and crannies of our history – the echoes of a world silently disappearing, the heritage of a rural society that is fading away – using them to sound out the values that govern our digitalized, anthropocentric and globalized contemporary societies. These two photographers have in common their stripped-down style writing, their careful selection of images and their aversion to the sensational. Two austere, uncompromising gazes. Two major artists.
Paulo Nozolino is one of the central figures of contemporary european photography. His journey begins in the 70's in London where he went to live. Then Paris, from the late 80s and throughout the 90s, was his basis for a long series of travels across the Arab World, as well as Europe, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Books like Penumbra and Solo are good examples of his political concerns with a changing society. A frontal artist, Nozolino sees photography the same way he sees life, using it to understand both the world and himself and taking it to the limits of his quest, his answers and his experiences. There is no room for complacency in his work. Destruction means destruction, death means death. Constant cycles in his historical time ‘par excellence’, the Twentieth Century, and even more alive in the present moment, as is stated in his most recent works, bone lonely, Makulatur, Usura and the soon-to-be published by Steidl monograph Loaded Shine.
Initially a press photographer, Stéphane Duroy little by little moved away from the media to develop his personal projects that eventually grew into books and exhibitions. With few resources, a subtle treatment, and without effects, he takes colour photographs and mixes them with black and white ones to explore a twentieth century Europe scarred by two atrocious wars whose memory he questions. His travels throughout Europe are marked by a voiceless and serious tonality, yet without pathos, creating a space where the exclusion of anecdotes leaves room for a form of desolation. Following an approach that is both documentary and conceptual, his work is a disenchanted record of the twentieth century and its contemporary consequences.