Claude Lemand:
" Gallerist and col­lector, I was not sen­si­tive to pho­tog­raphy as a work of art, I tended to con­sider it as a par­tic­ular kind of print, too fragile, ... although I was very attracted by the his­tory of pho­tog­raphy in the 19th cen­tury and through the research of cer­tain big names of the 20th cen­tury and those of con­tem­po­rary artists, who knew how to create a real world of their own, orig­inal, like real cre­ative "artists".

Dahmane’s works, his por­traits as well as his breath­taking pho­tomon­tages, con­vinced me that I was in the pres­ence of a real artist pho­tog­ra­pher. Adept of tech­nical per­fec­tion and pos­sessed, from his ado­les­cence and his first steps in this art, by the rich and mul­tiple image of young adult women, par­tially or totally naked, pho­tographed out­side or inside, proud women to be cel­e­brated for the plastic beauty of their bodies."

DAHMANE. Insertions, Nudes and Photomontages.

By Jean-Louis Poitevin.

Recollection, con­fes­sion, provo­ca­tion
The work of Dahmane has always revolved around the female body in all its splen­dour in an obses­sive way. The pres­ence of legs, hips and busts that partly or entirely reveal their nudity is simul­ta­ne­ously a rec­ol­lec­tion, con­fes­sion and provo­ca­tion.

It is a rec­ol­lec­tion because the child that each of us once was, is seized by the impos­sible yet defini­tively real memory of the belly that con­ceived him or her. It is a con­fes­sion because whether it is in its totality or in each of its parts that are all sup­pos­edly desir­able, this body is in spite of itself the implicit sub­ject of desire. It is a provo­ca­tion because ahead of any morals, there is a decency that is empha­sised rather than breached by nudity. His images incite us to acknowl­edge the exis­tence of this indis­cernible decency.

Early begin­nings
Dahmane was born in Paris in 1959. Both of his par­ents were painters. He was exposed to the world’s com­plexity and beauty at a very young age. As a teenager, he was deter­mined to pursue an artistic career, always turning towards pho­tog­raphy.
When he was twenty years old, fol­lowing a short expe­ri­ence in the world of fashion, he pro­gres­sively became the great por­traitist he is today. This is the dual world in which he has evolved since. An explo­ration of his œuvre is pre­sented here.

Environment, nude, face
Dahmane is an urban pho­tog­ra­pher. He explores all the angles of cities and focuses on the geo­metric shapes of the mega­lopolis, like the places that Paris con­ceals or pro­tects, such as opu­lent apart­ments, night­clubs, or closed places to which he is given access.

Without its inhab­i­tants, these cities are nothing and rep­re­senting the world as it is would be point­less. He there­fore intro­duces the female body, which for him appears to be the only way to enchant this world once again. According to him, the female body bears a vast poetic dimen­sion that allows dreams to go beyond the frame, be it mental, pic­to­rial or pho­to­graphic. The aim is not to get out of the frame but on the con­trary to include a pres­ence that is dis­turbing because provoca­tive, obses­sive because fem­i­nine, daz­zling because beau­tiful.

There is always a nude body within the frame as that nude is always a person. The out­lines of the flesh, the poten­tial for expres­sion and the power of evoking faces cap­ti­vate him. The women he pho­tographs are not models. He sug­gests to them to pose because he grasps their indi­vidual per­son­ality alongside their beauty.

Focusing solely on the nudity in his pho­tographs would be neglecting the essence of each of his pho­tographs, that of the artic­u­la­tion between the gaze and the stature, the decor and the body, the world and the per­son­ality. Each image bears wit­ness to a story, that of the body’s set­ting in a given place, of which the mul­tiple emo­tions can only be grasped by the expres­sion of the face.

Interiors, Exteriors
Throughout his career, Dahmane pho­tographed clas­sical nudes in inte­rior scenes, the con­tours of which indef­i­nitely recall that of the aes­thetic canons ruling over the expres­sion of beauty found in women’s curves since the dawn of times. The nude on it own cannot achieve any­thing as it must interact and con­front its sur­rounding world.
The set­tings include places of daily life, such as rooms or salons, cor­ri­dors or stair­cases. The poses appear to be tender or tense but it quickly becomes obvious that some­thing is missing.

To avoid this trap of inte­riors, he lis­tens to the exte­rior’s lure and in the city, this exte­rior world is the street, the build­ings, the mon­u­ments… And the women have the power to per­ma­nently change a place with their pres­ence. Each woman can give a meaning to the poetic inser­tion of dis­playing her inti­macy in the common place that the city is. That is what Dahmane suc­ceeds in cap­turing in his pho­tographs.

These images are taken from the daily stream and these women who haunt the cities make us dis­cover the affec­tive strength of their rad­ical pres­ence in this world. Each image seems to win over the dull­ness and hard times. All together, they tell us how beauty can be fragile and pow­erful, demanding and aggres­sive in its curves and in its dis­crete rev­e­la­tion of mys­teries.

What fas­ci­nates here, both the pho­tog­ra­pher and his models, as well as those who dis­cover his works, is the con­trolled ten­sion between skin and streets, between body and archi­tec­ture, between rolled up or aban­doned dresses and walls that sud­denly appear just as naked. The city becomes alive and the women become in their own rights char­ac­ters in a the­atre, in which the unveiled inti­macy chal­lenges anonymity.

A tech­no­log­ical turning point
The 21st cen­tury opened a new door for Dahmane, making him reflect again on his posi­tion as a pho­tog­ra­pher des­tined to cel­e­brate female eroti­cism. He knows that what has always tor­mented him is simul­ta­ne­ously a tech­nical, phys­ical and spir­i­tual problem, as it relates to our per­cep­tion of our rela­tion to the world. The ques­tion he thus raises is as fol­lows: what pho­tographing entails is to try to under­stand how a body can be inserted into a given space.

Digital tech­nology helped him bestow a new dimen­sion to the above ques­tion. He first used his old graphic inves­ti­ga­tions on cap­i­tals and sys­tem­at­i­cally sought to empha­size their hard­ness by adding his models’ erotic touch. However, the two pho­tographs were shot in dif­ferent places and at dif­ferent times. The pres­ence gives way to a motion­less pre­sent as yes­terday and today are com­bined to the extent of becoming indis­tin­guish­able in the image.

This inno­va­tive tech­nology also enabled him to play with other images whilst at the same time, attributing a new force to his rash love for per­fec­tion of detail. Previously, the pho­to­graphic prints caught all his atten­tion as the inser­tion of the body in the set­ting was frozen in the image. Today, the inser­tion itself becomes the cat­alyzer of the cre­ation. True to him­self, Dahmane spends end­less hours pol­ishing details so that nothing gives away his trick. By adding a body in the frame, he anni­hi­lates the limits of per­cep­tion and opens a door that is invis­ible to the heart, even to the vis­ible.

The long hours spent on the bodies and decors allow him to con­front more his second pas­sion, that of com­po­si­tion. Each of his pho­tographs are truly and abso­lutely com­posed. What does this mean? That the game he plays at, the provo­ca­tion of love he pro­duces, the shock between longing and desiring that he pro­vokes, are all sub­ject to his abso­lute taste for a strict bal­ance, the same that has obsessed painters for cen­turies. For him, taking pho­tographs is there­fore being loyal the great clas­sical cul­ture that his par­ents had exposed him to and that he ven­er­ates.

Anonymous mag­ical inser­tions
A humoristic touch is often added to the erotic dimen­sion of his work. This is most evi­dent in the pho­tomon­tages he cre­ated from anony­mous snap­shots selected from the Higgins col­lec­tion. An elec­tric ten­sion per­me­ates through each of these images, pro­voked by the antag­o­nist polar­i­ties of fig­ures coming from the limbo of a memory that is both col­lec­tive and pri­vate, and from nudes shot today in a studio. In these places and staging char­ac­ters unearthed from an anony­mous past, Dahmane achieves a tech­nical and mag­ical oper­a­tion by jux­ta­posing two levels of life that would have never been able to meet in reality, yet that truly exist, fea­turing on the pho­tograph.

The pho­tographs’ intrinsic beauty derive from what they pro­ject of yes­terday’s world into today’s frame­work by dis­torting it with the incon­gruous pres­ence of a body that arouses desire and awakens the memory of an inac­ces­sible past at the same time.
The power of the evo­ca­tion of fusion that Dahmane employs comes from the fact that the enig­matic pres­ence of a body with its sug­ges­tive semi-naked­ness does not seem to affect the beings that look at us from a dis­tance. These bodies that have been stripped bare are vis­ible for us and invis­ible for them. They bear wit­ness to this imper­cep­tible past with their streaks of pol­ished nails…

Eternal pre­sent
It was also expected that he paid tribute and amused him­self in con­fronting the great mas­ters, by inte­grating his own char­ac­ters. In his most recent body of work, in which he quotes Old Master paint­ings, he does not pla­gia­rize as he reveals the part of the unac­com­plished dream emerging from these mas­ter­pieces. The female body is often cel­e­brated in these works. By intro­ducing young women from today’s world, he voids the passing of time and opens a gateway for us towards an eternal pre­sent. Each of these pieces pays homage to beauty. Each of Dahmane’s works is not only a tribute to art and its his­tory, but also a cel­e­bra­tion of a new union, that brightens us up every time the threads of time con­verge in us with a braid of clean lines, forming a com­plete statue in which our visions and dreams are inter­woven.
Translated from French by Valérie Didier Hess

Works in Public Collections:

Donation Claude & France Lemand 2020, Musée, Institut du monde arabe, Paris.

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

Made by www.arterrien.com