Old advice would have young ladies balance books on their heads for good posture – in Floriane de Lassée’s photograph “Aru, Ethiopia,” 2012, a girl manages much more than that: on her head are three bundles of wood topped by a baby goat. Inspired by the men, women and children she saw transporting heavy loads on their heads in Ethiopia, de Lassée began asking people around the world about what mattered to them most, and photographing them with the objects they name balanced on their heads. The result is her ongoing series, “How Much Can You Carry?,” an exploration of rural life around the world. Shot in Rwanda, Nepal, Indonesia, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Japan and other countries, Lassée’s staged portraits, on view at Catherine Edelman Gallery until the end of October, are a collaboration with her subjects and a literal and metaphorical inventory of essentials and desires.
“In these remote communities, what matters most are often first necessity products or consumption goods: sacks of grains for the farmer who must sell his crop in the nearest city to feed his family, bales of straw to be traded for a cooking pan, empty bottles to be recycled …,” says de Lassée’s artist statement. That life might sound grim, but Lassée’s photos are surprisingly joyful, finding in her subjects a sense of creativity and delight. Shot against faded tarps and stone walls, the images are full of color, strong graphic shapes, and smiles. “Leaving misery on the side, the models show a unique sense of curiosity, fun, and pride, in staging themselves, proud to put forward what can be considered in lots of cases as their only survival means.”