French photographer and filmmaker Jean-Marc Godes places the book centrestage in his internationally exhibited project ‘Books in Life’ (Livres en vie). His works, done through a photo-poetic perspective, resemble a theatre production. He sets the stage with furnishings, actors, costumes, rehearsals and technical assistants. From constituting a team, casting the character, locating the site to creating the sets, working on the make-up and lights, Godes rehearses every part of frame until the image is taken. There is no computer editing involved.
Currently in India, he stops at Alliance Francaise, Chandigarh. The photographs from the collection, which have been exhibited across the world for over 10 years now, border on the real and the imaginary, replete with poetry and fantasy. About his work, he says, “The subject of my representations is the book as an object, in various forms. Living books or escaped books, they are the memory and the vehicle of our personal and collective stories.”
His exhibitions and photographic staging workshops are held regularly in France, in libraries, media libraries and schools, and at book and poetry fairs across the world. “In a world dominated by the image, by a gallery of portraits, along a dreamlike journey, I build uncertain worlds that participate in the reading of reality,” he says.
Books and readers are staged in the photographs, which take you far and wide, to the ocean, under water, in the sky, the forest, playground, artistic spaces, war zones, with books assuming new forms and the readers in the photographs feeling, connecting and establishing a new link and relationship with the books. “My objective, by challenging the imagination, is to arouse the desire to continue or go back the course of ephemeral stories that I tell, the time of a freeze frame, the time of a photograph. The singularity of my artistic research is to question the norms by realising photographic stagings located on both sides of the borders of the reality,” he says.
Godes’s father was a writer, and ‘Books in Life’ is in a way a tribute to his father, as the photographer strives to spread the word about the value of books and reading and through the stunning images. As the photographs are not socially, culturally, geographically confined, the viewer is free to interpret the image and absorb it, as heshe soaks in its many layers.