26−November 23, 2019
“I think photography is about celebrating an instant,” the French-Swiss photographer Hélène Binet has said of her decades long practice in which she has produced some of the most iconic and enigmatic images of famous buildings by famous architects. We are familiar with this idea, of course, Cartier-Bresson’s “the decisive moment” and all, but I think Binet means it in a different, more expanded and aptly architectural sense. I don’t think she means that in photography the instant is frozen, preserving some of the real or lived moment, but that the instant lengthens, elongates, prolongs: as if to look and to photograph, to look at a photograph, is to extend time as a kind of spatial experience in and of itself. Binet’s work catches details, frames and reframes lines, geometries, apertures, and voids, to generate new visions, flickering and ephemeral, within sometimes familiar spaces, so that the photographs are worlds within themselves.
Time After Time at the Large Glass brings together an idiosyncratic and beguiling series of Binet’s photographs—both black and white (her more typical mode) and colour, always analogue—from the late 1980s to present day. Olivier Richon, in an elegant text that accompanies the exhibition, reminds us that “camera” is Latin for “room”; and indeed, each of Binet’s works invites us into a distinct environment that is delineated in light and dark—fields that seem to reverse, refract, reflect, twist and turn inside out. In the gallery’s front space, the eye skitters and adjusts, in and out of focus, grasping at forms, across three fragmented views of Hadrian’s Villa in Rome. Binet zooms in on and tightly frames details of the famous ruin, abstracting its cornices, arches, and oculi so that they become dark and highly textured shapes against the sky above, whose lit up negative space, gauzy with clouds, optically shifts between back- and foreground. I say the details become and the sky shifts, rather than that they seem to, because there is something wonderfully transformative about Binet’s photographs, which cause the spaces they capture to ricochet and turn in on themselves, to multiply curves and angles, illumination and shadow, in an Escher-like mise-en-abîme.