Close Your Eyes
Close Your Eyes
(pour la version française, cliquez là)
The “Close your Eyes” project began with the pictures I came across in a small book with a yellow cover (the very first by Jeffrey Silverthorne). Each of those striking, unsettling, challenging images takes us on an extraordinary journey to the borders of representation (of death, sexuality…), while both recalling and rejecting a certain history of photography. At the same time, I had the feeling that there was a powerful connection between all those series with their striking images. I experienced the sometimes vertiginous pleasure of delving into a little-known oeuvre, the result of four decades of work carried out in absolute discretion.
Then there was the meeting with Jeffrey Silverthorne – so remote in appearance from the subjects he explores so obsessively – and that was when the idea for a film came to me.
As an attempt to spotlight his extraordinary work.
As an attempt to approach the obsessions that pervade his œuvre.
The film – the portrait of a major but little-known artist – is a joint project combining Jeffrey Silverthorne’s images and my own. It explores the act of creation from the inside, and from the initial shooting to the final retouching. “Close your Eyes” is a long-term project (five years of filming) which is now on its home stretch with the video editing and finishing touches, for which my producer P.O.M films and I need your support.
Why this fundraising campaign?
Why is this movie precious and important?
● JEFFREY SILVERTHORNE ●
Whenever he is about to photograph a model, Jeffrey Silverthorne always says the same words: “Close your eyes.”
This is when borders begin to blur, everything is exposed and taboos (sex, death…) appear beneath the captured reality.
Jeffrey Silverthorne is one of the great photographers of our day, on a par with his contemporaries and compatriots Diane Arbus, Larry Clark, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston, Robert Franck...
However, the singularity of his photographic career, subjects and style stems from the passion with which, since the 1970s, he has explored our innermost obsessions, transgressions and transformations. His remarkable photographic series have depicted such disturbing subjects as morgues, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, prostitution, transvestites, transsexuals, immigrants…
Little-known in Europe, he has gradually been discovered since the early 2000s. His “little yellow book,” Directions for Living (published in 2007 by Danish publisher Lars Schwander) was like a shock wave to the photographic world. He has since met exhibition curator Christian Caujolle, who organized an exhibition of his work at the Galerie VU’ (Paris) and at the “Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie” in Arles. He also met Anne Biroleau, curator at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, who featured his work in a hit exhibition, “70’s, le choc de la photographie américaine.” Three books have been published since then (Travel Plans, Portraits & Figures and Working) and in 2014-2015 the Musée Nicéphore Niépce (Chalon-sur-Saone) and the FoMu (Antwerp) both paid him tribute with his first retrospective Jeffrey Silverthorne, The Precision of Silence. His unique and disturbing work has retained all its mystery nonetheless.
Throughout those years, with astounding freedom and infallible independence, Jeffrey Silverthorne has built a rich and fascinating oeuvre that has earned its place in the history of photography, overstepping the confines of the genre and confronting viewers with their own limits.
The vast amount of still-unpublished work and the photographer’s eagerness to keep exploring new directions add to the excitement of discovering an oeuvre that is still taking shape…
“Catharsis is at the heart of Silverthorne’s work, reflecting his desire to exorcize his fears by exploring the depths, by observing the mystery of the ever-inexplicable, by questioning the enigmatic gaze of his subjects with their unreadable secrets, as if to understand himself all the better.” Olivier Rossignot, culturopoing.com
● VINCENT SOULIÉ ●
Photography and film constantly interact in my work, and I switch from one kind of camera to the other. Questioning, producing photography from film, and vice versa.
One of my previous movies – Je ne reverrai pas Tokyo (“I’ll never see Tokyo again”) – was dedicated to Belgian photographer Marc Trivier. And for several years now, I’ve been working on series of photos in Japan, and portraits of people I know – among them, Jeffrey Silverthorne, whom I’ve followed since 2010 in the various phases of his work: shooting, giving lessons and masterclasses, preparing his books and exhibitions, meeting gallerists or museum curators, at his place in Providence (USA) or in France, Holland, Spain, England…
The trust and complicity that have developed between us have given me access to his creative process as a photographer. Stepping aside, endeavoring to recreate the tension at the heart of the creative act. A few months after we first met, Jeffrey showed me some videos he’d filmed over a two-year period but had never shown; at that moment, I realized that Close your Eyes, would go much further than I’d imagined: this unpublished material, the appeal of another medium, a different means of exploring the same obsessions would give the film a new dimension and take me even closer to the heart of the work and its author.
“Jeffrey Silverthorne imposes nothing. His work is neither reassuring nor appropriate: it resists any kind of arranging; it isn’t passive. The link between work and viewer goes deeper. It’s a form of experience that resonates in each of us, coming close to our secret desires, our fears, our childhood. The encounter with the man himself is surprising too: with his small round glasses and tidy mustache, Jeffrey Silverthorne exudes a very British kind of detachment and humor, in all modesty. He gives the impression of someone far-removed from the subjects of his work – but you only have to watch him, hear him state a view or challenge a student’s position to see the connection between the man and his pictures.” Vincent Soulié
● CLOSE YOUR EYES ●
Close your Eyes is a film dedicated to Jeffrey Silverthorne. It is also a joint project, the point at which our two gazes meet, the place where two materials (Siverthorne’s images and my own) come together.
The film is based on four main axes:
- Jeffrey Silverthorne’s shootings, when he creates dazzling compositions that lead his models toward the most mysterious parts of the human soul
- the discovery of the scope and richness of his work over the last 40 years, with two exhibition curators – François Cheval (Musée Nicéphore Niepce), and Rein Deslé (FoMu) – who both went to Providence (USA) to prepare the first major retrospective of Silverthorne’s work (opening hundreds of boxes containing unknown pictures, conversations with the artist about his motivations and techniques…)
- a wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne about his career, his relation to photography and images in general and his relation to the history of art – but also to the contemporary history of the United-States (how the Vietnam War, for instance, impacted his best known series, “Morgue”)
- video sequences shot by Jeffrey Silverthorne in the 1990s as a means of questioning his photographic technique, his relation to time, movement, narrative. These are deeply disturbing sequences which – exploring the same places as his photographic work, such as morgues and whorehouses – show that the power of his art and the strength of his view of the disorders of our world go beyond the framework of the medium: Jeffrey Silverthorne is definitely a “total” artist.
Allocation of funds
After following Jeffrey Silverthorne for five years, the filming of the documentary is now over, and I have compiled several dozen hours of rushes featuring many fascinating sequences showing Jeffrey at work, the discovery of his work, the artist’s research and explorations, and the man himself.
For me, this rich and instructive material about an artist at work must become a full-length movie, which I would like to finish by December 2015 at the latest.
But the fear inspired by the transgressive power of this work and by its refusal ever to close its eyes, the fear that explains why it has remained out of the public eye for 40 years (with very few exhibitions and books) has inevitably impacted the film – the very first about Jeffrey Silverthorne, of course! From the start, it has been difficult to finance, and the producers have found very few financial partners: no major TV channel, for instance…
To see my project through and do justice to this outstanding work, first and foremost I need time: time to work with the film editor, time to look through more than 100 hours of rushes, time to shape the material into a movie worthy of its subject.
This work is under way and we want to finish the movie by the end of the year at the latest. After the editing phase there will be the finishing touches, which are important as they will include Jeffrey’s photos and videos (which will need restoring as they were shot 25 years ago in a format that no longer exists!) Not forgetting the composition of an original score to accompany this American adventure.
Finally, we would like to find a variety of ways of showing this singular, powerful and free-spirited film – from the DVD/book featuring the work of both artists (Vincent’s movie on the DVD, Jeffrey’s photos in the book) to screenings in movie theaters.
The producer P.O.M Films and I have decided to look for “fringe” funding sources, as we need further funds and many doors have remained closed to us because of the independent spirit of Jeffrey’s work, reflected in the movie.
During and after this fundraising campaign we will keep you informed of the progress of this post-production phase by posting news and excerpts from the film.
Les éditions de l’Œil (publisher of several books about Jeffrey Silverthorne), P.O.M Films (the producer of my movie) and Jeffrey himself are joining me in this fundraising campaign and will provide a wide range of original gifts in exchange for donations by subscribers in support of Close your Eyes: DVDs of the finished movie, books, limited editions including signed prints, and a special “Eyes wide closed” stamp.