Chrystel Lebas’s work is drawn from her interest in looking at how landscapes contain psychological significance in relation to historical events, legends, fairy tales, and our childhood memories, and how to communicate these themes within an image. She uses photography along with the moving image, and she often pushes apparatus to the limits in order to produce images. Her works are mainly produced during the twilight hours (often in forest locations, in places such as Germany, Japan, France, Finland and England), when light is still present outside the confined space of the forest, but darkness has already spread under the trees. Using long exposures, the panoramic camera records the barely perceptible forms of the forest when night falls, making things visible to the viewer’s eye what would otherwise be shrouded in darkness. The skylight that breaks through the curtains of the trees’ density appears paler, and gives us the sense of an outside world, away from the compact and claustrophobic forest.
The photographs often question our relationship with a familiar landscape, with the images empty of human presence, however this emptiness connects with the idea of possible stories, which may be somewhere behind the picture, or a story that might be told but leaving the viewer to experience a possible feeling of insecurity.
“The forest is a fascinating place, one can feel attracted to its grandeur, or scared by its depth and darkness. This space of immensity echoes our childhood memories, through fairytale or play. Walking through the forest of my childhood in France, after many years, I remembered when we used to build a hut, and slowly the light would disappear, and darkness would surround us.” -Chrystel Lebas
In the series Blue Hour, Lebas photographs bluebell forests. The low natural light causes the bluebells to glow against the green foliage. This rich blue colour symbolises the otherworldly, evoking the ‘magic hour’ of fairytales and legends.
Blue Hour forms part of a larger body of work entitled Between Dog and Wolf made between 2003 and 2006 in France, Germany, Japan, Spain and the UK. The title is a translation of the French expression for twilight, suggesting its transformative and dangerous qualities.
The Abyss series is taken in forests where twilight heralds the loss of light and colour, rather than creating a theatrical abundance of light and colour. Using a panoramic camera and long exposures, Lebas observes the effects of the fading light, creating images that contain an imprint of the event as it unfolds over time.
Technique used for Azure (2001-2003):
The panoramic camera is used here for technical reasons. The lens rotating on an axis turns upon itself, its continuous movement across the area to be photographed records the landscape in the form of multiple exposures. The long exposure times, from 2 to 6 hours, illustrate the passage of time, moving from day to night to day again. The 146-degrees rotating-lens, the arc travelled by the lens’s rotation, is close in its range to the field of vision of the human eye. Seen in an exhibition context and enlarged (2m. long), these images give the viewer the feeling of being absorbed by the colour surface where shapes appear slowly from the shadows.
- National Media Museum, Bradford
- Modern and Contemporary Art Museum Rijeka, Croatia
- The Collection and Usher Gallery, Lincoln
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London
- Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris
- The Citigroup Private Bank, UK
- Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes et de la Photographie, Paris
- The Wilson Center for Photography, London
- Vital Art, London
- Private collections
These clients can be seen as well-known, and upmarket establishments. The fact that her work is presented within these acclaimed institutions shows that is it worth a decent sum of money. This is mirrored in the prices as the starting point is at £950 with the addition of vat.
The artistic meaning behind her photography adds another dimension to the simple landscaping idea. This makes it a good selection (due to the exclusivity) for the clientele.