“Tu sais qu’est-ce que c’est le rayon vert?” Marie Rivière’s listless character Delphine asks, her legs swinging, in Éric Rohmer’s 1986 film Le Rayon Vert [The Green Ray]. The film – a portrait of its main character’s halting search for summer romance – was based on Jules Verne’s 1882 novel of the same name. While in theory its title refers to an optical phenomenon – in which the appearance of the sun as it rises or falls beyond the horizon creates a brief flash of green, and with it a supposed moment of mental clarity for all those who see it – in reality its subject matter is far more elusive.
“I related the ‘rayon vert’ phenomenon to the process of photography – this special and quick moment that happens rarely,” Swiss photographer Senta Simond explains, referring to her project of the same name. Her series, published by Kominek and shown at London’s Webber Gallery, adds a new, compelling layer to the meteorological event/Jules Verne/Éric Rohmer mix of references.
Indeed, Simond, a former student of ECAL, University of Art and Design Lausanne, from which she graduated last summer, first encountered the concept via the 1986 film. “I found this plot aligned with my personal photographic process,” she says.
Simond’s portraits capture the tiny slivers of intimacy that can occur between artist and sitter under the right circumstances. By turns the photographer elicits affection, boredom, puzzled reflection, peace, resignation, joy and laughter in her subjects. “They are my friends, and friends of friends, some very close, that I have shot for 10 years,” she continues.
“I choose them because I find something intriguing in their character, their attitude; they all have something strong and soft at the same time. There is something very specific that I am fascinated by, and I usually find this in women.”
As for that ineffable intimacy? “I think it’s a combination of things,” she says. “I don’t use any set, only white backgrounds when possible. The equipment is simple and we, the subject and I, form a trust. I try to catch the subjects in subtle and intimate moments. This minimal method allows me to get close to my subject. Also, being a woman photographing women helps me to capture these intimate images – and that was something I wanted to explore.”
“The project stood out for us as a gallery immediately,” adds her nominator for BJP‘s Ones to Watch issue, Dominic Bell of Webber Gallery. “It is such a fresh and genuine approach to working with a subject, and a perfect example of the intriguing relationship between artist and sitter. The outcome is a beautiful exploration of gesture and pose on both sides of the camera.”
Rayon Vert by Senta Simond is on show at Foam, Amsterdam from 07 September-28 October www.foam.org/museum/programme/senta-simond