The French photographer effortlessly portrays designer Xavier Brisoux's collections at this Paris expo
'Sprezzatura' is the Italian word for an artist's ability to make his work seem effortless. This word assumes a new meaning in a photographic exhibition opening at Anne-Valérie Hash's Parisian showroom in Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, an iconic space dating back to the end of the 1800s. The event, featuring images by French photographer Mathieu Drouet of the men and womenswear collections of Xavier Brisoux, hints at the way both this photographer and knitwear designer accomplish difficult actions while hiding or disguising at the same time the conscious effort that goes into them.
Dazed Digital: What does sprezzatura represent for you?
Mathieu Drouet: This concept is part of my own creation process and it must be some kind of permanent state in my life. I often think that I prepare myself all day long for this fleeting moment when my photographs are good.
Xavier Brisoux: For me it conveys the hard work behind something that looks obvious, almost heaven sent. Nonchalance is what I try to achieve in my designs, and Mathieu is very good at translating this notion in his photos. I love the fact that the word in itself is a concept that cannot be really translated into another language.
DD: Can sprezzatura be applied to contemporary photography and fashion?
Mathieu Drouet: As any other artistic form, photography is very demanding technically and artistically speaking. You learn from your masters, you experiment, you make mistakes, but you feed yourself from everything - life, art, other people, love or hate - to be ready to doing it. In the end, you shoot without thinking, since the camera becomes an extension of your mind and photography turns into the expression of a feeling, an idea about a theme. That’s "sprezzatura" for me.
Xavier Brisoux: When it comes to fashion, sprezzatura is like a well-kept secret or a hidden treasure. You have to really discover a garment, its construction, its details. Not everything should be seen at first sight. That is how I design, trying to reach an unobtainable subtlety.
DD: Can you tell us more about the pictures included in the exhibition?
Xavier Brisoux: The exhibition presents 10 pictures of our collaboration together. These images are not aimed for a catalogue or any other commercial purpose. The venue is very special as it is a place that has a lot of history as it has been a theatre but also a brothel. It is also very close to my heart as it is Anne Valérie Hash’s showroom, she is a godmother to me and I’ve been collaborating with her since 2005.
Mathieu Drouet: I never considered my work with Xavier as a commission. I don't make any distinction between my personal work and ours. We've been collaborators for four years and it was about time to exhibit this part of life we have in common. Xavier's designs tell a story and I tell another one through my photographs. I had the chance to visit Anne-Valérie Hash's showroom once and I thought that showcasing the images here would help us giving our work a certain continuity.
DD: Which bands, films or writers inspire your photography ?
Mathieu Drouet: This is a complex question for me. Most of the times, it’s an emotion, a reaction. Then music - experimental music in particular and bands such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Sunn O))), Pelican, Neurosis, Sonic Youth, Neil Young, Fugazi, movies like The New World, Valhalla Rising, The Assassination of Jesse James, literature from H.P. Lovecraf and Edgar Allan Poe to Guy de Maupassant, and a few photographers like Anton Corbijn, William Klein, Nan Goldin and Stephen Shore.
DD: Will the exhibition travel anywhere else?
Mathieu Drouet/Xavier Brisoux: We do have in mind a very special venue near Lille, in Roubaix. Though, since this is a complex project to set - as we see it as a complete piece of art that involves choosing the best images, the ideal venue and also the best wines for the vernissage in a genuine "sprezzatura" style - we didn't really have the time to sit down and work on the next dates.
DD: What is your favourite picture included in the exhibition?
Mathieu Drouet: The one where one can see Xavier's hand.
Xavier Brisoux: Yes, this photo just happened and it’s the one we chose for the invitation since it expresses the link that connects people.
Sprezzatura by Mathieu Drouet and Xavier Brisoux is at Anne-Valérie Hash, 36 Blvd Bonne Nouvelle, Paris, from 9th to 15th December, on appointment. All images copyright of Mathieu Drouet