Critics’ Picks

Hervé Guibert, Sienne, 1979, gelatin silver print, 6 1/2 x 10".

Hervé Guibert, Sienne, 1979, gelatin silver print, 6 1/2 x 10".

New York

Hervé Guibert

Callicoon Fine Arts | 49 Delancey Street
49 Delancey Street
May 29–July 25, 2014

Of the nearly fifty photographs by Hervé Guibert on view here—the largest assembly in the US to date—all but a few exceptions are captured within intimate, directionally lit interiors. As a photographer, journalist, theorist, and AIDS activist, Guibert documented his relations with his friends, lovers, and the social energies around him. His journals—recently translated into a nearly six-hundred-page tome—and photographs showcase a meandering, vigorous subjectivity: insatiably observant, emotionally porous to the forces of everyday life, while seemingly uncaring of his own lyricism.

Guibert frequently photographed within hotel rooms, driven by a desire to testify his presence across temporary settings, and his lover, Thierry, is often depicted within these neutral, homely interiors. Some photographs follow his travels through Palermo, Amsterdam, and Rome. One example, Sienne, 1979, shows a man’s naked back collapsed over a cleared desk. Gleaming rays of light pour in through the open casement windows facing the body and cast a moody aura beneath illuminated, hovering smoke. Guibert approached self-representation evasively, often by photographing the accouterments of his workstations, such as in Table de travail (Worktable), 1985, or in Les lettres de Mathieu (The Letters of Mathieu), 1984, as a shadow peering over a bed strewn with journals and folded letters.

Guibert’s daily writings detail a fixation on disappearance, which stayed with him until his death in 1991 due to complications from an attempted suicide and AIDS. One year prior, he captured Autoportrait de Lieu et Date Totalement Oubliés (Self Portrait of Place and Date Totally Forgotten), 1990—an auguring, overexposed, and icily blurred self-portrait devoid of any surrounding context. After his friend and mentor Michel Foucault passed away in 1984, Guibert photographed his apartment and described the process as “not a pact of forgetting but an act of eternity sealed by the image.” This can be extended to Guibert’s own legacy, which becomes increasingly visible as one observes his photographic records and countless pages of affective notes. In spite of all efforts at self-erasure, his voice remains—too singular to be forgotten.