By Janet Alexander.
Initially debuting in September 2009, “I am Dust” is an autobiographical body of work about incarnation and the cycle of birth-life-death-rebirth, known as Samsara, and a powerful testament to how no other artistic medium could be more well suited to Parisian photographer Olivier Valsecchi than photography. Capturing life in the lens of a camera, in effect, stopping time to immortalize moments in images, Olivier describes his visual meditation on Samsara as, “the denial of death, and the hope for an extended or endless living,” adding, “It’s true, that I do believe in reincarnation.” The idea of showering models in ashes occurred to Olivier in January of 2009. “It was about my renaissance, the very moment I felt I was walking on the right path in my life,” he says in articulating the culmination of his personal beliefs creatively realized. Olivier’s interest in photography actually began auxiliary to his first creative passion for music composition, producing photos for his record albums’ sleeves before enrolling in photography school, “to study technique and to see if I could ever make a living in the business.” Olivier’s self-portraiture work spans more than a decade, but uniquely distinguishes itself from the traditional sense of the genre, as he describes, “the best story I can tell is my own, only I don’t want to appear every time in the photos–that would just be boring. I meet a lot of people in whom I can see myself, and I feel instinctively that we have something in common to share.” Subsequently, his images are not literal self-portraits, but instead, depict a spiritual kinship that Olivier senses between himself and his subjects. Using a Hassleblad and Nikon D800E, Olivier says his images are meant to convey, “nothing but my emotion, my world, or my vision of yours.”
The second installment of the “I am Dust” project, a series entitled, “Time of War,” was shot last summer and is inspired by Ovid’s definition of Chaos – a confused mass of fog and liquid, light and darkness, order and disorder, that exploded and gave birth to Planet Earth. “From this [past] summer until now, for social and political reasons in France and worldwide, I have been feeling a lot of tension and conflicts,” he explains. This inner turmoil and distress is vividly expressed in how the ashes appear to shroud the models, “with clouds of dust that could’ve come from bomb explosions – threatening clouds,” Olivier describes. The nude motif proves to equally deliberate in keeping with the terms of the images’ theme. “The body is beautiful and expresses a lot. I want to see the nerves on the arms. I want to see the conquering chest, the suffering neck. “Time of war” is about strength and courage to survive, so I need to see how the body is ready to fight.”
Time of War will be making its U.S. premiere at this year’s Snap! Orlando in May, although, that wasn’t the original plan. Friend and French photographer Nicolas Sénégas introduced Olivier to Snap! founder Patrick Kahn, who initially wanted to present Olivier’s “Klecksography” series, a live performance he shot for the Hasselblad’s Masters Book last year. However, as Olivier explains, “I sent him a preview of the forthcoming series “Time of War” and he decided it belonged to this year “Motion to light” theme.” Olivier has heard of Snap!, but this will be his first time attending, and says, “It is an honor to be part of this event; it’s always very nice to share an event with photographers you like and you feel close to.”