Meeting with the photographer and Visual artist Jean Luc Dubin//

What strikes first at Jean Luc Dubin is his stature, his hands, very large, his voice, grave and quiet, his gaze, Frank and attentive. And then, very quickly, to listen to him telling a whole life dedicated to photography, it is the simplicity with which he takes action. 

He's one of those men who do.

He is the photographer of Deutsche Grammophon; He supports Jazz hot when the owner of the title, his friend, dies in a fire. He leaves a job overnight to venture into New Caledonia with a knowledge met the day before that takes him to draw GEODESIC points for the IGN. From 1980 to 2005, he creates and animates the Studio plume, a creative and photography workshop that allows him to finance all his photographic projects, regularly exhibited; his friendships guide his steps, from the Dupuytren Museum and his collection of human pathologies, to the Voodoo countries of Benin, through Tlemcen and Oran, where he cooperates with Algerian photographers. 

His works are born of sharing and encounters, especially those that he provokes with spectators attracted by his ephemeral installations in Cotonou or when they animate therapeutic workshops at the psychiatric hospital of Ville-Évrard with Teenagers.

They say men are what they do.

Jean Luc Dubin manufactures images. His images make objects. Or are produced from them. It deconstructs and reconstructs images. What are his pictures made of? Black and white. From this obscure that he constantly summons, inspired and carried by his passion for Caravaggio. Sometimes they are sewn together, of Red wire, like those of New York, or assembled like a totem placed beneath our feet. His images speak of life because they show "dead souls" or wandering. Because children are omnipresent there, even in the State of "monstrosities".

Brigitte Trichet, co-founder Hemeria .

Fascinated by the primitive beauty of reality, Jean Luc Dubin apprehled the social world without interpretation or spirituality, guided by what Florian villain called "a glance without a glance".

Camille - Élise Chuquet

Since he discovered photography in a colony at age 11, Jean Luc Dubin has continually hunted down the emergence of "poetic images" in human societies.

A traveler driven by this photographic quest, he exhibited for the first time his work in 1973 at Pavel Tigrid, in Paris, with his series "the people of Prague". In 1978, he took to New York City in search of new faces, from little Italy on Broadway to the Bronx, in this town where "filth, destitute, wealth, luxury mingle, disown, oppose". In 2016, he will gather his New York clichés in a book published by Dumerchez.

Years later, an arlésian encounter brings him to new contrasts, made of "deep blacks" and "scattered whites", in the Bay of Naples which reveals, for the eye of the photographer only, the ambivalence of a millennial population, suspended in Vesuvius. Presented at the Gallery "the tree of the world" during the Rencontres d'arles in July 2018, the photos of the series are part of the project The anime Pezzentelle di Napoli, carried by Jean Luc Dubin and his friend Florian villain, teacher researcher in sociology and philosophy. 

© Jean Luc Dubin, Naples.

Fascinated by the primitive beauty of reality, Jean Luc Dubin apprehled the social world without interpretation or spirituality, guided by what Florian villain called "a glance without a glance". Human behaviors in all their materiality are an inarable source of poetry for the photographer. In Naples as in New York, his street photos are formed as a social precipitate, triggered by the magical moment of the click.

In this sense, Jean Luc Dubin is very interested in the objects attached to the concept Hegelian of positive religion, that is to say all the rules and rituals internised by the individual. From the Neapolitan crucifix to the fetishes of Benin, Jean Luc Dubin considers that man, when he interacts with the support of his beliefs, produces an intense aesthetic reaction, bathed in the fervor of the relationship to the divine. 

"Maybe the thread is repair, link, and that the pebbles, shapes taken to the volcano, to the mother earth, so dressed in transcended images are rendered to the prayer of the ex-voto." 

Jean Luc Dubin

© Jean Luc Dubin, ex-voto.

As explained by the Bruno Latour, the Gentiles, the faithful, the fetigoists, the artists and the poets forget that they are the authors of their creation, thus attributing "autonomy" to deities, objects or works that are devoid of them. In September 2009, during a residency at the French cultural centre in Cotonou, young children were worried about seeing Jean Luc Dubin manipulate fetish objects.

When he replied that he was interested in "the meanings" and "in the form," a little boy said that from then on he had to be an artist. This disarming lucidity is indicative of the work of the photographer who converts beliefs into art, without altering the mysterious aura of the image.

In this respect, the series on Naples comprises several bones and vanities attached to the "ritual of wandering souls", which consists in honoring the skull of the dead to soften their arrival in the hereafter and offer them recognition and dignity (*). In the heart of the Neapolitan cellars, women have perpetuated this tradition for centuries. Jean Luc Dubin was interested in these practices at the same time as Florian villain, who found in the clichés of his friend, a resonance to the thesis that he would expose some time later, in the review of the Mauss. In the course of its history, Naples has overcome constant dramas and threats that have shaped the behaviour of its inhabitants in a sustainable way. Regularly under foreign domination, the city has experienced invasions, epidemics and deadly eruptions without ever losing its identity. Florian villain explains that Naples was built on appearances to protect its culture, recalling that its streets are "like a theatre scene". According to the sociologist, the Neapolitan cannot be pierced up to date without looking beyond what they deign to show us; Jean Luc Dubin, however, manages to detect what survives beneath the mask. 

© Jean Luc Dubin, series Le anime Pezzentelle di Napoli

Like "a manifesto" of Florian villain's reflections, his photos support the idea that the ritual of wandering souls has gone through time to protect very strong social bonds. While this practice has always been considered an archaic tradition maintained by outdated devotes, Florian villain reveals that the ossuaries served as a boudoir to femininity. Behind the pretext of the ritual, in reality hides the necessity for women to spare an intimate space to Exchange on their personal life. " We must therefore see the spontaneous response to a need for solidarity in the face of all the difficulties that the organizers of the home may encounter. So it is not illegitimate to consider that these practices fall within what Mauss called "total social fact", explains Florian villain. 

In an astonishing complementary impetus, Jean Luc Dubin illustrates the ritual or sacred objects, while Deconstructing the beliefs that accompany them, conscious, like Bruno Latour, that one should never "believe that the other believes".

Since its images reveal built realities, it is not uncommon for the photographer to invent new objects, affirming the "place of plasticity in photography". Photo montages sewn with a thread linking the scenes between them, sets of fragmented mirrors, recomposed portraits and exhibition-concerts are all syncretic objects producing meanings, diffracted by the richness of intericonicity. 

For Jean Luc Dubin, the photo can play as a mechanism of self-appropriation. His experience as a portraitist prompted him to realize that the model passes from subject to object behind the goal, Jean-Luc Dubin encourages individuals to regain control of their image. In the series of Reflection trap, during a residency at the Centre culturel Français de Cotonou, the Beninese people were able to compose their own portrait by mastering the image returned by fragments of mirrors, fixed on Velcro webs. In this "space of reflection", the photographer and the model are in solidarity with the work. In the same way, the photo project of the "pilot village" in Dakar allowed young people framed by this NGO to redesign their identity by creating Cubist portraits of themselves, from photos cut into pieces. Jean Luc Dubin has been experimenting with this process for eight years in art therapy, allowing young people "fragmented in their heads" to deconstruct their gaze to recompose, or simply decompose, their identity. Like the Polaroids mosaics by David Hockney, Jean Luc Dubin offers the possibility of seeing different angles to better tame.

1st series: reflection trap//2nd series: art therapy (workshop performed weekly in the unit ADO 93, led by Dr. Teboul assisted by Dr. Laure Sebag).

Unlike the iconoclasm that focuses the gesture on the destruction of the image, "the iconoclash" theorized by Bruno Latour emphasizes the ambivalence that can exist between the abolition and the creation of a new image.

After questioning religious icons, the company sought to flee the traditional production of images through new forms of art. If Jean Luc Dubin claims iconoclastic in his relationship to religion, his photos produce iconoclashes, confusing the social reality in the production of unpublished images, to make him spit out his truth behind appearances. He recalls that in English, the verb to shoot means "photographing" as much as "kill", confirming that the portrait murders the model, and that the images settle on the ruins of their fellow men. 

© Jean Luc Dubin, monstrosity series, extreme beauty

Beyond the social world, Jean Luc Dubin also tackles the ideas received on the Nature human being, which is akin to a normé construct. In his series monstrosity, extreme beauty, the photographer collaborated with the Musée Dupuytren at the request of Dr. Patrice Josset, to carry out a work of memorisation on fetuses suffering from malformation. 

Starting point of his friendship with Florian villain, these photos affirm that there are as many Humanities as possibilities. And if the handsome can afford to be weird, it is also because it is revealed by the singular look of the photographer.


Camille-Élise Chuquet, journalist. After studying political science and information science in Paris II, Camille-Élise Chuquet joined the publishing and cultural press circles. Currently referent literature to the library of choisy-Le-ROI, she writes regularly for the new literary magazine.

(*) The ritual of wandering souls was born in Naples. Refer to the text of Florian villain, "prayer for the souls of purgatory in Naples." The given word, beyond the giving-giving, " MAUSS review, vol. 50, n ° 2, 2017.

Find the interview of Jean Luc Dubin and Florian villain soon on our podcast l'oeil listens.

The photos of the anime Pezzentelle di Napoli series will be presented at the "tree of the world" Gallery during the Arles meetings from 1st to 28th July 2019.


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