Versailles is unique. Built by the Sun King Louis XIV to dazzle the people of his time and emphasize France’s rank as the leading power of the world, it has never been equalled.
What is less known is that behind those gilded rooms life was swarming. The royal family escaped in private apartments from their official duties and the eyes of courtesans. Thousands of people lived in the castle, from the highest ranking aristocrats to chamber maids and water carriers. Noblemen managed to fit in small rooms; servants lived under the roofs in lofts that were freezing in wintertime and awfully hot in the Summer.
Jean-Gabriel Barthelémy’ photographs show the various facets of Versailles.
He has worked in the palace for several months with a 8x10 Sinar view camera (20x25cm). In order to render the atmosphere of the place, he did not use any artificial lighting.
In some cases, exposure time was above two hours. It was hard work. He had to crawl in some places and to carry two heavy suitcases of equipment, one for the photographic chamber (camera lucida), the other one for the accessories, the lenses and the plates.
With a camera lucida, even when using wide-angle lens, perspective parallel lines can be restored. Thus he was able to get centrings impossible to make with a reflex camera.
Artistically, Jean-Gabriel Barthelémy’s work is in the same genre as those of Robert Polidori or Candida Höfer.
La Cité des 4000
La Courneuve, 2002 : les tours des « 4000 » ont les barres les plus hautes et les plus longues. Elles forment un mur d’enceinte oppressant autour d’un centre commercial et d’un parc. Comme d’énormes paquebots, elles déchirent le ciel d’Ile de France.
Cette série a été exposée au Festival Visa pour l'image en 2002 puis à la BNF en 2006.