Opening on Saturday, November 16th 2013 from 6 pm to 9 pm
Exhibition from November 19th 2013 to January 11th 2014 Tuesday – Saturday 11 am – 7 pm
Robert Capa, the famous war photo reporter, used to say: "If your pictures aren't good enough,
you're not close enough". Youri Lenquette has always been close. In the paranoid universe
of back stages and of band entourage, he arrived where the rest performed a
somehow brutal retreat. As if he had released waves, or had emitted ultra
sounds showing the musicians he was one of them.
Without making a fuss about it, Youri
grew up on his own. Soon he had seen, lived and experienced more than most of
his future colleagues. We were still fantasising about the "rock way of
life", while in certain regards Youri
had already tested it. Perhaps it was this, after all, that the musicians could
While having the privilege of being admitted to the other side of the
barrier, around the bonfire, his experience, his instinct, and his guardian
angel always made him keep the right distance. "Close enough" for the
picture to be good, but not too close
to the fire, not to get burnt. Many travel companions of these bands were
carbonised upon contact. Youri
is still here, safe and sound, for exposing and testifying.
In 1981 he was the London
correspondent for the monthly magazine Best.
His first assignment coincided to my first trip for Rock&Folk: a miserable concert of Adam & the Ants, but I
have reasons for not regretting it, among others because that is where Lanquette and I became friends. In
the following years I saw him growing professionally. Photography, which at the
start was an engaging hobby, and, once a journalist, a way for completing his
articles, soon became a profession and also an art. But always, regardless of
what happened, being “close enough” for Robert Capa to approve it.
Laurent Chalumeau : Which are the
criteria on the basis of which you selected the pictures ?
Youri Lenquette : The documentary
interest, as much as other possible graphic qualities. For instance: the photo
of Mick Jones, Captain Sensible and Bernie Rhodes sitting in a circle. It’s
nothing astonishing but it captures a moment: six months later, the verdict was
released, the Clash were part of a totally different league. But there,
everybody is still at the same level, chatting and smoking pot. Other times,
the picture is interesting or picturesque, but it represents perfect strangers.
And then, sometimes, you are lucky : it is well framed, well composed and it
says something about one of your favourite artists.
LC : From your pictures, stand
out spontaneity and a lack of pretension that fit well your subjects. How do
yow consider them today ?
YL : At the time, I saw
them as souvenirs, as something that could help me remember, as a stolen
moment. Later, as illustrations able to give life to my articles. There still
is not a precise thought behind. It is mainly photography from someone passionate about music more than mere
photography. Luckily the musicians I photographed are still interested in music
thirty or thirty-five years later, and were back then quite photogenic.
And then, as I kept taking pictures, I realised that, even if correctly
written, my articles stood no chance of developing an artistic dimension of
their own and they would have always been dependent on the work of someone
else. Whilst my photographs, I believe, were at least something I was making myself, even if I was just at the start. It was more stimulating.
LC : Some of your
pictures give the impression of being shot by a member of the band.
YL : Considering the
environment of a punk concert of those times, being in front of the stage with
a camera was mission impossible. The only way for not being knocked over, was
to be on the stage. On the condition, of course, that the band accepted to have
LC : Indeed, two things
always struck me: the way you could immediately establish proximity with the
artists and the way they would grant you complete access, while distrusting the
other journalists and photographers. How would you explain this?
YL : I don’t know. The honesty
of my enthusiasm was probably obvious. Also, it might have been that I tried to
be myself as much as possible. In fact the good attitude is not to have an
attitude. The limitation is, in the end,
that you get accepted as a member of the band because you know when you are
supposed to stop taking photos. There are, sometimes, things that you regret
you couldn’t shoot or grab.
For instance, I recall an after-concert with Motörhead which was a
condensed version of whatever you might read or fantasise about the excesses of
the "rock & roll way of life". We headed with some bikers towards their
quarter, then, we went with them to a diner where it nearly ended up in a
fight, then again to a brothel in Marseille, all this in a sequence of
transgressions, but also in a friendly light-hearted atmosphere. And of course,
no chance of using my camera.
LC : Speaking about
bikers, you reckon that the times spent with a club of the French Riviera
taught you to ride quite well.
YL : Maybe. But it is
mainly the interest in motorbikes other that the Japanese ones that made a good
contact point with the musicians. If the guys saw you getting to the interview
or to the shooting on an interesting engine, that could distinguish you from
your colleagues. Or if the conversation touched the subject of what kind of
motorbike I liked, soon that would turn into a shared interest, it would create
complicity. For sure other journalists
had this with football.
LC : These pictures show
nearly ten years. Looking back, what do you think they say about you, or about
the evolution of your gaze ?
YL : It is the passage from an
enlightened amateurism to a profession. Exactly as the punk artists I used to
shoot or hang out with. We had the same age, they grabbed a guitar, I grabbed a
camera. But if you say punk in the meaning of twenty year old, arrogant kids
overfilled with energy and craving for living fast, here and now, well, it is
obvious : during those years they, just as myself, were punk. Later, we
all had a better vision of what we were doing. This is the good news. The bad
one is that, all of a sudden, we weren’t twenty anymore! This is the evolution,
the passage to a more experienced shot, but necessarily to adult age. As I
said, I was lucky that the subjects of my photos have aged well and that many
times, my camera and I, found ourselves in the right place at the right time.
ADDICT Galerie in collaboration with JM
Patras,will present “PUNK
NUGGETS, Original Artyfacts 1977 – 1985”, an exhibition of the
photographer Youri Lenquette, from
November the 19th 2013 to January the 11th