Muses d’Orsay is my response to a commission from the Musée d’Orsay asking me to photograph the museum’s employees in their place of work. With the Musée d’Orsay housing the national collection of 19th century works, I suggested that each employee take his or her own photograph with a rubber bulb snap like in the old days. Each person had ten takes, in other words a roll of film. It was up to each to choose when and how they would be photographed. So they became artists for the time it took them to photograph themselves and thus assume responsibility for their own image.
All Rip Hopkins’ photos share an enigmatic “character”, i.e. a white cable that is sometimes taut, sometimes, entangled, sometimes moving, sometimes easy to see or sometimes visible only on closer inspection. It is intriguing for those who don’t realize that it is the link between the camera and the shutter bulb, hidden in the “model’s” hand, and that only the slightest pressure is needed to trigger it when the model wants. To capture the museum staff, Rip Hopkins used a set up that is both playful and rigorous. It was up to the photographer to define the framework, the light, the composition and the chroma. It was up to the “model” to decide on the moment when the photo would be taken (but not its exposure time or other technical considerations). In the end, this is a family photo album that is both funny and serious in a series of “true-false self-portraits” for which the building (and above all its behind-the-scenes) serves as a frame and jewel box. To such a degree that the whole thing becomes a “portrait” of Orsay that gives pride of place to the invisible spaces, favorable to the mise en scène, the theatricality, the smiles, surprises and seriousness. In short, jubilation.
© Christian Caujolle / Panini 2006
18 photographs 40x50cm mounted on cardboard