Art Photography

Mathilde’s Art Photography

When does food photography become art photography?

Am I still a food photographer when I braid together two photographic prints of black scales?
My colour palette is made of everyday ingredients: yellow lemon, orange mandarin, black cuttlefish ink. Does this make me a food photographer?
A mere food photographer, I would add.

Nature inspires me, what it produces fascinates me. I like to think that I tame, but it is Nature that tames me. Coming back from the market I do my own cooking: I examine, I peel, letting still life compose itself in my perspective and come back to life in my – art? – photographs.

Watch the food artist in her workshop

2015 – Belly to the Ground
Mathilde de l’Ecotais has adjusted the focus of her camera. From the infinitely big to the infinitely small. A photo journey that impacts in a good or bad way our five senses. And urges us to look at and feel this nurturing Earth differently.
The planet is no longer blue like an orange, but rather red stained like this sausage that outlines the Americas. As if the ecological invoice were already expensive. Plastic pieces in relief inviting themselves to the ocean are taunting the eye, causing this irresistible desire to strip these elements off and clean the deck. Regain some balance. Avoid this chaos to which this ‘Belly to the Ground’ is leading us.
A change in altitude. The poetry of Sonia Delaunay’s works invites itself to the atmosphere. Geometrical forms, junk food versus taste. An explosion of colours that resemble African boubous. A manner to remind that what comes from somewhere else is an asset against the globalisation of our plates that standardise our diet.
What we swallow as raw material gets then mixed in our stomachs. While our brain is trying to fight against an invasive marketing symbolised by these ads of the 70s that make the stomach of this woman-model heavy. Slogans resound as madeleines of these glorious years. The end of a (nearly) happy epoch announcing chaos?
Eva Roque
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2013 – Black Series
Yakushima, southernmost part of Japan, latitude 30°23’N, longitude 130°40’E: full scorching heat on this small island, the bright sun whips the black lacquer of this old fish dryer. The building angles are torn apart on the round waves of the Pacific in backlight. Black develops its matters, shadows and lights. Matt or gloss, Yves Saint Laurent is right: ‘there isn’t only one black, but different kinds of black’. For the ‘Black Series’, I braid, I cross, I overlap emulsions. Result: The glossy forms waves by overlapping the matt, the forced prints fit the volumes caused by the tension of the movements, 9 photographic works that crack like sculptures in blazing sunshine.
2012 – Between the Earth and the Sea – Cyanide and fresh tomatoes
After ‘CriEAUsphère’ and ‘Essentiel’, Mathilde de l’Ecotais is using today two old photographic techniques. Photohgram*, a photo made without negative, and cyanotype**, a photographic image made of a cyanide solution brushed over paper.
Drawn by both the beauty of the Prussian blue characteristic to the cyanotype and the magic of the photogram imprint, Mathilde de l’Ecotais ‘gets into the kitchen’, reviving in this manner the experimental practice of the inventors of photography. Her goal: finding a certain – technical and gustatory – tradition by incorporating it in modernity: that of digital image placed at the service of preoccupations of our time.
Where are the tomatoes of yesteryear? In cyanide… Our fresh sardines? Drowned in the chemistry of polluted waters… The precious nature of these unique prints reminds us that our planet is fragile and we must take care of it, because it feeds us.
*photogram (n,m): photograph made without a negative, so a unique challenge: the artist puts objects on sensitive paper, insole and the imprint of the objects appears in negative on the paper. This technique appears in 1834, with William Henry Fox Talbot who created what he called ‘photogenic drawings’ by putting flat objects (lace, grass, flowers, foliage) directly on sensitive paper.
**cyanotype (n,m): photographic image made by using a cyanide solution and iron salts brushed over paper. The famous examples of Anna Atkins (years 1840-‐1850) also had botanical elements (algae and flowers) as a starting point.
2011 – The Essential
The essential is constantly threatened by the insignificant’ René Char used to say. To me, the Earth is driven by three uncontrolled engines: technique, globalisation, westernisation. It is like a moving octopus, which holds us tightly with its tentacles and destroys the biosphere.
The juxtaposition of the same three-dimensional motif over flat prints retranscribes this impression: things seem to be autonomous, but in reality they depend on one another. Until when will industrialisation – the metal here – transform the row materials, traditional cultures, food habits? The agri-food industry is driven by profit, competitiveness and productivity and unfortunately forgets the essential: the enormous unbalance between overconsumption of the ones and malnutrition of the others.

See Jean Paul Jouary’s testimony

2009 – EDO
There are the others….And her… Where traditional food photography presents the meal fixed for all time in its studied primer, Mathilde de l’Ecotais sees, with her lens and especially with her spirit, into the depths of matter in order to extract its subtle and voluptuous poetry. Her photos are as creative as the dishes she captures at their best.
Her photographs invite the audience to a never ending journey, without limits, between structured and unstructured. Tamed by her perspective, the most common vegetable becomes an abstract masterpiece. Still nature so incredibly alive that we look at, at first stunned, then swept by the swirl of forms and colours in which the imaginary invents them an identity.
Under her perspective, we can almost touch the lightness of a dash of milk, the diaphanous of a Yuba veil, the fragile transparency of caviar. She shows us, from inside, the unfailing respect that we must have for nature for having created these worlds in which the infinite joins the infinite. It is life that constantly emerges fro her apparently-artificial photographs, as she will tell you, on the contrary, that she never cheats, nor does she retouch the colours captured in their momentaneous perfection, this light which has been precisely studied to bring out the best. This light over the matters has become her inimitable signature.
Mathilde de l’Ecotais gives us the perspective over a world that she has chosen to reinvent over and over again in this trivial universe of ‘food’ that offers the paradox of being accessible to everybody in its daily-life approach and only revealing its secret and intimate nature to the unique eye of a unique artist. Yes….There really is her… And the others…
Thierry Marx
2008 – Small Infinities
The eye is black, alive, shaded.
So rare.
So peculiar.
It sees like nobody else does.
It reveals what each of us may want to see.
Transcends matter.
Sublimates light.
We could think it captures melting gold,
it captures salmon roe.
We think about streams of ink,
oriental veils,
delicate stained glass,
heavy velvet,
airy lace,
unveils aubergine flesh,
carves cucumber tenderness,
penetrates turnip fibres,
stretches carrot ones,
reveals the intimacy of a fig,
leek folds.
And there, fans? Pleated tissues? Brushstrokes?
No, fogu fins.
Wings, as she says.
What to believe?
Mathilde’s eye? Ours?
The game begins.
Catherine Roig