The November 2015 Paris terror attacks had a profound effect on French photographer Bérangère Fromont. “Making images no longer made sense, the next image could only be black,” she says. “I wanted to stop photography, I felt like I had gone blind.”
In March 2016, a friend invited Fromont to visit Athens. Equipped with an old Nikon camera, “just in case”, the photographer explored the city’s Exarcheia district — a neighbourhood that is known for its anarchist book shops, edgy nightlife and politically charged graffiti. “Little by little, I started to see again,” says Fromont. “Thanks to Athens and its people, I finally saw hope in humanity that I thought had disappeared.”
“Everything is reused and transformed. I wanted to aesthetically recover the oxymoronic nature of the city to reveal its beauty”
Fromont is interested in exploring notions of resistance and rebellion. The photographer’s first two bodies of work — Cosmos and I don’t want to disappear completely — explore adolescence. “I consider adolescence as a state of mind,” she says. “The energy of resistance is adolescent.” Her latest project Except the Clouds, which was shot in Athens, shares similarities in the sense that the photographer perceives the Greek capital as a city of contradictions — simultaneously defined by its rich mythological history and stark political-economic situation.
The book, and upcoming exhibition, published by VOID, and designed by founder João Lineu, reflects the darkness and tension that Fromont experienced. Images of empty lots and abandoned construction sites are sequenced with recurring portraits and snapshots pulled from news footage of the 2010 anti-austerity riots. Objects employed by the rioters, such as nails and sticks, are photographed abstractly, as though they are suspended in space. “I had to alter some of the images to bring more rhythm and intensity,” Fromont explains. “Everything is reused and transformed. I wanted to aesthetically recover the oxymoronic nature of the city to reveal its beauty.”
When creating these images, Fromont was deeply inspired by a quote from Walter Benjamin: “Amid a landscape in which nothing was the same except the clouds and, at its center, in a force field of destructive torrents and explosions, the tiny, fragile human body.” Exploring Athens with these words in mind, Fromont began to think about the decline of civilisation and how a person exists within this chaos. Except the Clouds is an embodiment of the uncertainty of our times, presenting a philosophical contemplation of chaos, and the notion that resistance can be present in each of us.
Except the Clouds by Bérangère Fromont is published by VOID. The project will be exhibited at Minimum, Palermo, from 16 September until 02 November, and Offshoot Gallery, London, from 17 to 31 October 2019.