Chasing Stories: ‘Eyes wide open! 100 years of Leica photography’ featuring François Fontaine The stories behind the images, by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle at Eyes Wide Open! in Madrid

Following its enormous success in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Portugal the spectacular exhibition ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 years of Leica photography’ is now visiting Spain on the next stop of its tour and can be seen in Madrid from May 11th to September 10th, 2017. More than 400 original prints are being shown in Madrid. Photographs by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nick Út, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Lebeck, Julia Baier and François Fontaine document significant moments in the history of art and culture from 1914 to the present day. The exhibition showcases significant moments of the past century of Leica photography. Chasing Stories are written by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle and the exhibition will take place at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid.

François Fontaine: Grace Kelly: To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)

From the Silenzio! Mémoires de Cinéma cycle, 2012

Traditionally speaking, image sharpness is a highly cherished trait in photography. Leica photographers in particular value the quality of their lenses. Already Max Berek’s Elmar, produced for the very first serial Leica in 1925, exhibited excellent optical characteristics. It was the sharp and clearly defined image that counted, and became the goal of any ambitious photographer. Sharpness, however, is not a value per se. At the very latest, it was the Impressionists who taught us that not every sharp picture is necessarily a good one. Unfocused and blurry subject matter can be an alternative stylistic option worth exploring. Even more recently, futurists have shown us how motion blur can be used to capture the dynamic speed of our technical day and age.

It was movement, not tempo, that captured the attention of François Fontaine. Born in Paris in 1968, he was concerned with the question of how we see and remember pictures. How does our inner image archive work? Are the images that emerge from the depths of our memory necessarily in focus? In an experimental series, Fontaine projected classic movies and took deliberately blurry stills of key moments. Borrowing from the great Terence Malick, Alfred Hitchcock, Victor Fleming, and Jean-Luc Godard, Fontaine confronts the viewer with paused, unfocused images. What do we see and remember? Is a silhouette, a pose or colour enough to trigger a recollection? Fontaine’s work is at once both subtle and sensual, philosophically challenging and playful, committed in its conceptual content, and an intellectual enrichment for signature Leica photography.

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