Throughout his long career, French photo historian and theoretician Michel Frizot has written about star photographers from Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész to Jacques Henri Lartigue. At the same time, he has been no less interested in images made by unknown photographers, collecting work by anonymous artists, amateurs and obscure professionals at flea markets and rummage sales. On view until February at Fotomuseum Winterthur, “Every Photograph is an Enigma” shows images from Frizot’s private collection, arranged according a system of Frizot’s that highlights the variety of mysteries they embody.
Among images of babies and explosions, press photos and scientific documents, there are pictures that show what the eye cannot see, that make a puzzle out of the relationship between subject and photographer, and that demand an active viewer, such as a selection of stereoscopes whose double images must be combined by the brain of the viewer into a single whole. The show, which traveled previously to Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and Musée Nicéphore Niépce in Chalon-sur-Saône, presents Frizot’s strange, beautiful or mundane images as questions about the assumptions we make in a photo-saturated culture. In the catalogue to the show, published by Éditions Hazan, Frizot writes, “Because they are so familiar to us, because they are part of our visual space, photographic images seem to be immediately accessible and understandable. But everyone has experienced that sudden burst of amazement they can set off through suspended movements, the rendering of colors, unexpected coincidences or abruptly frozen expressions. If we pay attention to such features, they provoke the feeling that we are faced at once with something obvious and with a question.” For him, it is their lack of the control and finesse that makes the images in his collection valuable and fresh, offering “an extra touch of photographic naturalness which is not shrouded in conventions.”