The purpose of photography : brut photography can be a therapy… for everyone.

As a photographer, we can’t avoid to ask ourselves why do we do a photograph of a certain subject at a precise moment ? After the shooting time, comes another long period of editing the photographs which makes us wondering again, why do we did these photographs that we discard afterwards (at least, I do).

What I want to point out with this article is the use of photography in a different experience when the process does not follow a structured plan by a photographer but is used to help a sensibility to outcrop ; process which can, in this case, be used as a cure, and also, as a medium of communication, drawing a line inside the human being community.


What I am talking about is called « Brut photography » and is the result of a partnership between the gallery « in)(between » and the house for disabled people « Corners », located in Osaka – Japan, which is specialized in art brut with handicaped people. Six of them were selected to be introduced, by a few professionnal photographers, to the manipulation of the camera. They were all given a compact camera and two rolls of Tri-X film which they were completely free to use (one did his first roll in a day while another one took 2 months for his first roll). They all end up with 72 photos.

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The result is absolutely fascinating, at a surprising crossing between « The Decisive Moment » of Cartier-Bresson and the « it has been » expressed by Roland Barthes in Camera lucida.

Those photographers do not theorize their shooting, they just express what is important for them in a very raw emergency. They focus on their surroundings, their friends, their objects with an equal importance. There is no hierarchy in their preoccupations.

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The protocol as a therapy : I have been working for years with mentally handicaped people in different institutions and one of the bad effect of their diseases is their inability to communicate with others, with the « external » world. The use of photography becomes a great support to express themselves. They tell us what is important in their lifes, what they want to share with us and what they feel ! The photography becomes a catalyser and make possible the communication with the « normal » world (we could talk a little bit longer about what is normality, but it is probably another topic !). And with just a very little effort, we know a lot more about those people than what we thought before. A link is built and a common language appears.

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What we learn from this work : with humility, the book, made from this experience, shows all the photographs taken, in the specific order they were shot. 72 photographs per person showing an individual narration. This tells us that every photo is important once it has been shot. There was a specific mood, at a specific time, which drives a photographer to release the shutter and to frame a subject, well, to make a photograph. The way they look at the world is very similar to the way children do. They go straight to what is important, without any additional considerations, and this makes this piece of work very easy to understand. This is a first degree expression and we suddenly discover the world as it is ! The sequencing is done instinctively by living the everyday life and I can’t avoid to have in mind the « Provoke » experiences in the Japanese photography of the 70’s, when photographers tried to push forward and forward to the limit the ability of photography representation. And by the way, the book shares many similarities with the recently published book by Takuma Nakahira : « Circulation : Date, Places, Events » which relates to another instinctive experience of live shooting during the seventh Paris Biennale in 1971.

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Working with mentally handicaped people was an extra work for me, and I found it very refreshing in regards of my usual life. This collection of photographs is almost as refreshing for me, in my photographic process. We need some regeneration and without surprises nor doubts, those photographs can become a strong inspiration.

And finaly, the greatest quality of this work is that, for once, it does not question anything. More and more critics are talking about photographers work as questioning … about … Those photographs don’t question anything, they just give answers… if you’re smart enough to understand it!

The photographers mentioned above are : Hiroki Nakamura, Kouji Nishioka, Hiroyoki Oda, Makoto Okawa, Yasuyuki Ueno, Mami Yoshikawa. I also have to warmly thank Luigi Clavareau, director of the « in)(between » gallery, first for initiating this experience, and secondly for introducing me to this work !

As usual, more info here :