Charlie Waffen contemporary art cultural architecture cultural heritage France museum sculpture



// Charlie is a French photographer who enjoys taking his camera on walks for documentary type photography, whether it is in the streets of Paris or while travelling to near and far places. Photography allows him to dive into the world of creativity, as an observer but also as a creator. He shared a set of photographs from the Musée d’arts of Nantes.

Charlie grew up with the travel pictures of his parents on the walls in their house and says he was always happy to virtually travel through their eyes and with the accompanying stories. He only started taking pictures himself when he bought a bridge camera in 2009 before a trip to Istanbul and then an SLR in 2012, before visiting Andalusia. From 2013 onwards, taking photos stopped being only a travel-driven activity, and Charlie started going on photowalks in Paris, even as he I kept a real attachment to the travel and documentary part. “Paris is my city and I know it quite well already so I don’t have the same fear of missing out as I have when I am travelling. Thus, I can take my time, wait a bit more for a situation to happen or come back when the light or the season is different. This also contributed to completing my approach to photography even if I try to keep a ‘spontaneous style’ ”.

“I am not sure what I want to achieve beyond having and providing aesthetic emotions,” he says. “but I would be happy to be part of an exhibition one day and also to edit books for more than personal use purposes.”

“To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

What draws you to the arts?

“Art(s) is a quite vague notion that is not so easy to define and covers a wide area of creations. It has something difficult to grasp but I feel like there is both a universal and a subjective component in aesthetic pleasure. I often love it as something personal but I also love to exchange views after a theatre play, a movie or during an exhibition.

Photography allows me to be an actor of the creation, to share my impressions, to document what I see and/or to play with reality, while putting a bit of me in there. To me, it is an attitude, a way of seeing things, of being curious to highlight or to create some beauty. And it provides me with an interesting perspective which contrasts with my daily work environment (in finance).”

What impresses you most about the museum you visited and the photographs you made for this series?

“I believe beauty is everywhere to be captured and museums are part of this landscape. I usually don’t take pictures of stand-alone art works there as I could find better versions on the internet and above all I prefer looking at them directly with my eyes (not to mention I hate when someone stays in front of a painting with his/her phone or camera, blocking the view). However, I really like taking pictures in museums on the fly as I go through exhibitions, which one could describe as some kind of ‘indoor street photography’. The rich permanent collection and the temporary exhibition on ‘Hypnosis’ in the Nantes Museum of Arts offered me two great playgrounds with different artworks, atmospheres and colours. I was also nicely surprised by the rich permanent collection, which was highlighted by the beautiful architecture and the huge walls inside the museum.

I like diversity in photography (from candid moments in the streets, to landscapes, portraits, demonstrations, architecture, etc.) and people – or even just silhouettes – are often part of my pictures. But I can rarely catch the types of life scenes, emotions or atmospheres in museums the way I usually do in the street, so it is harder to tell a story (which I really like and is one of my key areas of focus).

The other key dimension to me in photography is when I feel that everything is in the “right place”, which also provides me with a great satisfaction. These are the types of photos that I tried to capture that day. Either my attention was caught by some lines, colours, light, or perspectives as I was walking, or I tried to find creative angles or matches (colour/shape/theme) for instance, using various elements of this beautiful and creative environment.”

Charlie discovered the Nantes Museum of Arts this summer. The Musée des beaux-arts was originally established in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte. Designed by the Nantes architect Clément-Marie Josso, the building that houses the collection, the Palais des beaux-arts, was inaugurated in 1900 in the heart of the city. The glass roof over the Patio, the exterior facade of the museum and its grand staircase are listed on the French national register of historic monuments. After a major restoration and extension project led by the British architectural practice Stanton Williams in 2009 the Musée des beaux-arts was transformed into a modern art museum combining the architecture of the past and present.

It has a remarkable collection covering 9 centuries from ancient art to contemporary art with some masterpieces. Charlie says, “The museum is big, with great light and architecture and it was not crowded. This was perfect for contemplation… and for some candid pictures. Sometimes I was even missing people (I never thought I would say that in a museum!) for photos and I could not really wait as I had only a limited time there.”

One of the temporary exhibitions that Charlie was impressed with was Hypnosis, which explores a cultural history of hypnotism and the close links that artistic practices have had with the history of hypnotism from the late 18th century to the present. At “the Cube” space, the exhibition traces the evolution of hypnotism and links between hypnosis and art, while in the “Oratory Chapel”, the American multimedia and installation artist Tony Oursler has created an immersive exhibition designed as an experiential echo of the Cube route. Five of the photos we are showing here by Charlie are from that installation. (If you click on the images you can see what is what.) Immerse yourself!

Click on the photos to see the full image with title, some images are cropped for layout.


To see more of his photography visit Charlie´s Instagram page.

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