Ones to Watch 2021: Matthieu Croizier

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Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its Ones To Watch – a selection of 20 emerging image-makers, chosen from a list of over 450 nominations. This artist is also one of five talents selected for Futures, a Europe-based platform bringing together the global photography community to support and nurture the professional development of emerging artists across the world.

The Swiss photographer creates a ‘love letter to the abnormal’, pushing back against vilification of the queer community          

“I want my images to stimulate something unconscious in the spectator – something almost physical. I want them to walk a fine line between repulsion and attraction, beauty and ugliness, pain and pleasure,” says Matthieu Croizier. “I want to find ways to visualise that precarious balance between opposites.” 

Taking visual cues from an array of cultural sources, the 26-year-old ECAL graduate lets his imagination run wild when taking pictures. Inspired by everything from 19th century medical archives and freak shows, to the writings of Virginie Despentes and cult classic horror like David Lynch’s Eraserhead, he explores the idea of monstrosity in relation to his own queerness. 

Everything Goes Dark A Little Further Down © Matthieu Croizier.
Everything Goes Dark A Little Further Down © Matthieu Croizier.

“What is so disarming about Crozier’s photographs is the ways in which they destabilise a sense of perception. They are orientated in the physicality of the body, where he often creates tension and ambiguity, to reflect the complex and sensate experience of being human.”

Gem Fletcher, Photography Director of Riposte

“What is so disarming about Crozier’s photographs is the ways in which they destabilise a sense of perception,” writes nominator Gem Fletcher. “They are orientated in the physicality of the body, where he often creates tension and ambiguity, to reflect the complex and sensate experience of being human,” she explains.

Croizier grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, and didn’t come out as gay until he was 19 years old. “Accepting who I am took time,” he says. ”Even after coming out I didn’t embrace my queerness until much more recently, and I still feel the need to fight against heteronormative pressures a little more every day.” His photography practice has been instrumental in helping him to achieve that goal, and after several years of making images and experimenting with the medium, his major project Everything goes dark a little further down emerged. 

Everything Goes Dark A Little Further Down © Matthieu Croizier.

Everything goes dark is a love letter to the abnormal,” says Croizier, who started on the project in 2019, during the final year of his photography BA. “At first, I was interested in the representation of monstrosity as the anti-norm, so I started to explore in that direction.” Fascinated by the queer community’s radical reappropriation of stigmatising terms such as ‘freak’ and ‘faggot’, he looked for visual ways to represent that resistance.

“The idea was to build a kind of monstrous show with what I had at hand, in order to highlight that what is normal and abnormal is only a social construct. And that the image plays a very important role in this too: it is only a matter of how we show things that makes them normal or not.”

Everything Goes Dark A Little Further Down © Matthieu Croizier.
Everything Goes Dark A Little Further Down © Matthieu Croizier.

Croizier fragments, distorts and draws upon his own body parts, creating surreal and pseudo-scientific scenes where his head and hands, ears and feet become the centre of the study. Turning the camera on himself, he says, was a big step towards the freedom of self-expression he was seeking. “I never dared to take self-portraits before, but for this project it made sense. I wanted to use my own body as material.”

Alone in his apartment, he felt free to explore. His use of an analogue camera meant he could not see what he was doing, which helped him to let go of self-control. 

Croizier is now working on his first photobook with the London-based publisher Mörel Books. Beyond that, he plans to continue with the ideas he began exploring in Everything goes dark – “because the questions I’m asking myself with that work are just not answered yet”.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London