While the modern world turns faster and faster, some people choose to remain apart from it, taking their own direction, at their own pace. The fads, trends and focus of modern society pass them by, not necessarily unnoticed but consciously avoided as there is no obvious desire to participate.
The latest works of Frederick E. Bertin show strong links with ‘classical’ photography, where trends or styles were based on other values from the relevant period. His calm and meditative black and white imagery will not suit everybody’s taste. If your idea of modern photography is pouting models and fast cars in blazing colour, then there won’t be much solace for you at a Frederick E. Bertin exhibition. But of course that is the beauty of modern photography; that it can cater for most tastes. The viewer can pick and choose.
Frederick E. Bertin’s vision started almost literally in 1977 when he had overcome a disease of the cornea that had made him blind for a while. He began by assisting various photographers, studying their skills until he went out on his own with portraits as his interest. Vogue (Editions Condé-Nast) was quick to use his abilities and he had many commissions. There were series too and his folio includes for example a project carried out in Cambridge, England portraying those connected with the university. For this project he managed to amass over 5,000 negatives covering scientists, gardeners, students, porters, professors, researchers and so on. This work evolved into an exhibition that appeared at Christie’s in London as well as featuring in Vogue. In 1998 he also set off for Stockholm where he portrayed members of Ingmar Bergman’s theatrical company.
Regarding inspiration for his work, Frederick E. Bertin mentions artists such as Watteau and Dürer. As a child he accompanied his parents on their excursions to the art galleries of Europe’s capital cities discovering these and other artists. It was only later on that he perceived a link between Dürer, for example, and the work of Edward and Brett Weston, that in turn made him look closer at the works of the ‘group f/64’. This group of photographers, that included Ansel Adams (a dedicated Hasselblad user), Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston, chose sharpness and a maximum depth-of-field as the hallmark of their photography. After many years of considering their work he completed his ‘Plantes Atlantiques’ portfolio, which he “humbly dedicated to Brett Weston” as he says himself. This collection of selenium-toned images with echoes from that period in photographic history was taken in Portugal and exhibited in Paris in 2004.
When he describes his Hasselblad cameras, he uses sensuous terminology. They are obviously more than just workaday tools for him. They seem to have become an integral part of his life. He loves the square format which suits his way of working and his interest in the placement of graphical elements within the frame. He never crops his images though this is not through ‘snobbery’ as he puts it; it’s simply because he wants to exploit the format to the full.
While working on his ‘Plantes Atlantiques’ portfolio, with its concentration on plant forms, he became drawn back to people as the centre of attention. He realised that the abstracted graphical elements, the accented textures and the play of light and shade that he was working with could be equally exploited in the interpretation of the human form as well. The seed was planted so that now his new project is nearing completion and is planned to blossom into an exhibition entitled ‘Naked’ in the spring of 2006 at the Bertin-Toublanc Gallery in Paris.
You can find more of Frederick E. Bertin’s work at www.charlesnesphotography.com and at www.bureaudesexpositions.com