One Stephen Shore student is setting Paris alight

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“I choose to work without limits. I follow my instincts and allow my subconscious to be in control. By neither having a theme nor a structured project, I am able to keep my photographic process as natural and intuitive as possible,” says 27-year-old Louis Heilbronn.

His first exhibition, Meet Me On The Surface, at the Galerie Polaris in Paris in February 2013, was a revelation for many. Brigitte Ollier, art critic for the French daily Libération, described his images as “gifted, with a captivating power”, while Claire Guillot of Le Monde wrote that their charm came from their elusive nature.

Heilbronn’s large-format photos, which were shown as small 23×30cm prints, flowed like an organic stream of consciousness, mixing portraits of loved ones such as his girlfriend with shots of strangers, images of everyday objects, and an array of varying landscapes. With no indication as to when or how far apart they were taken, the images created a quiet riddle to which each spectator found his own answer.

The Brooklyn-based photographer graduated from the photography programme at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, which is directed by Stephen Shore and where his tutors included Tim Davis, An-My Lê and Larry Fink. He then moved to Jerusalem for a year, where, in complete isolation, he was able to submerge himself in his work. “I was left alone with endless time to wander and explore my innermost thoughts and ideas,” he says. This experience was to become the foundation of his aesthetic approach. He has shot in the midst of commercial America and in quaint old towns in France, but he always takes this approach and, when he is shooting, is always “an outsider both mentally and physically”, he says.

Perhaps it’s this mix of intimacy and aloofness that gives his work its ambiguity; Heilbronn is a stranger who will scatter his most intimate memories, but without ever revealing their significance. Currently he is working on a series of multi image panels dealing with “the paradoxical nature of human empathy and moral ethics… looking at eight different sites and narratives that deal with, or have a specific history with water,” as Heilbronn explains. Taking in scenes such as the current drought in California and cricket games playing out in front of dried up Delhi reservoirs, the first panel of this series will be presented at Paris Photo in November 2015.

Find more of Louis’s work here.

First published in the January 2014 issue. You can buy past issues here.

Laurence Butet-Roch

Laurence Butet-Roch is a photographer, writer, PhD student in Environmental Studies at York University, and Graduate Research Associate at the Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology. Her research unsettles mainstream representation of environmental contamination in Canada through participatory visual discourse analysis and collaborative photographic approaches.