Vincent Perez

Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5/7 rue de Fourcy
February 8, 2017–April 9, 2017

Vincent Perez, Bureau de l'état civil, Salle de fêtes, Saint Pétersbourg, August 2016 (Vital Statistics Office, Party Hall, Saint Petersburg, August 2016), 2016, digital color print drymounted on aluminum, 48 x 65".

Identity in today’s world is more muddled than ever by sociopolitical mayhem, but Vincent Perez takes a plainspoken approach to this predicament. His recent series “The Parisians,” 2016, photographed around Paris’s metro Château Rouge in an African neighborhood, mixes street style with an alfresco studio feel. (The Swiss-born Perez himself is a curious but respectful outsider; moreover, he is known as an actor/director in France). Each subject brandishes a bright palette of garments and accessories: taxi-yellow nails, red headscarves, pink paisley button-downs. Their hues are accentuated by the use of a flash, contrasting sharply with Paris’s muted architectural background. The snapshots, taken of strangers on the fly, bring to light a quiet pride as well as visibility to a marginalized community in contemporary French society. In this way, the photograph is a document, but it’s equally a reinforcement of the community and a validation of the self. This vision is more distinctly celebratory in the sartorial splendor of a sapeur wedding, where guests are adorned with swathes of lace and natty bow ties.

In the next room—but worlds away—Perez showcases portraits taken in Russia, where he has been traveling regularly for twenty years and where he has begun to exhibit photographs of artists and dancers. His connection to the country’s cultural heritage began with its literature, and he channels this reverence into straightforward images: In one, a couple is posed before ruched fabric in nuptial dress, while in a neighboring image, the duo is dressed casually, cigarettes burning in their hands. In the latter, the woman’s shirt bears two hearts, pierced by an arrow.

— Sarah Moroz