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Catherine Henriette


Les Cerfs-volants, 2013.jpg

Les Cerfs-volants, 2013, Pigment print on Fine Art paper Hahnemhüle Bright White

74 x 104 cm (paper size), 5 editions + 2 AP

27 x 32.5 cm (mat size), 10 editions + 2 AP

Conte d’hiver, conte d’été

For around thirty years, Catherine Henriette has been observing China, with its economic, cultural and social evolution. Thirty years in which the pulse of the country has been rising, things have been moving fast and probably too fast. She has seen the transformation of the landscapes and cities, which have become alienated and spoilt, where everything was being sacrificed in the name of development and profit at any price. As a firsthand witness to this frenzy, Catherine Henriette paused time with her Leica camera and rolls of film. With the modern China as her backdrop, she has captured the vanishing points and figures, and photographed them like a shifting mirage.

”The patient waiting for pure lines and outlines, the subtle constancy of the emerging image… It was like a tale halfway between reality and my imagination. ”

– Catherine Henriette

In her "Conte d’hiver" (Winter tale) series, Catherine Henriette chose Songhua River in the northeast of China, an immense blank page or backdrop for her attempt to capture life in the Chinese north. She rose before dawn for the bluish light to capture the beauty of nature on film, as if all things were permissible before sunrise. Struggling with the freezing cold weather of the north, Catherine Henriette waited for the children to leave for school and workers set-off for work, travelling from one place to another lingered with her hazy and tired body. She trailed the fishermen between ice holes crisscrossing the river, and encountered the old men and kids with their homemade kites. However, the beauty of the landscapes has always manage to reinvigorate the artist over the cold and frosty river.

Catherine Henriette revisited the beaches of northern China to photograph the "Conte d’été"(Summer tale) series, where she had escaped to on scorching hot days as a student in Beijing. With her keen observation on the pleasant beach bathers and the seaside once she was familiar with, Catherine Henriette has captured the seemingly eternally good-nature of the atmosphere, as if time has been frozen in a wonderful long vacation. Her revisit to the coast has given her a delicate and sharp insight on the dramatic changes of the cities and the merrily damages that modernity has brought.

“Perhaps they would have been proud of all these bridges, the forests of cranes and the towers, which are being erected today with the same winning optimism seen on the Soviet propaganda posters of the time, a mirage of modernity caught red-handed in the act of realization.”

– Catherine Henriette





Catherine Henriette lives between Paris and le Pays Basque. After studying Chinese, she arrived in Beijing in 1985 and began a career as a press photographer. Engaged by the Agence France Presse, AFP, she left China in 1991 and since has worked for various magazines.

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