Review: TV by Mathieu Bernard-Reymond


Book Reviews, Photobooks

Television famously has been described as a self-referential medium, but it appears that it might be time to move beyond that. TV has now come to create its own actual reality, in what one could call an evolutionary step. And unlike in the case of the American ultra-conservatives’ version of such a newly (“faith based”) reality, this one is truly going to stay with us: the “faith based” reality only exists if you believe in it or, probably more accurately, if you want to believe in it; TV’s new reality exists even if you don’t want to believe it’s true. In this sense, what is called “reality TV” is not some form of TV any longer, it is a symbiosis of reality and TV, and it is not going away if we switch off the TV set.

So it is only logical for Mathieu Bernard-Reymond to combine images from TV and actual photographs, to create the imagery shown in his new book TV. It’s a simple idea, and the effect is stunning and extremely unsettling.

Set against night-time shots of mostly urban environments, people appear, often hard to make out, sometimes looking as if they actually belonged to the scene, sometimes blurred or with multiple, slightly offset versions - people taken from TV, like ghosts in the “real” world. Nightly cityscapes show towers of apartment buildings, where upon closer inspection, the lit windows are TV screens. It is surprising to see how what sounds like a simple, maybe a bit gimmicky, idea works so well and how it doesn’t look gimmicky at all.

Needless to say, Mathieu Bernard-Reymond’s TV pushes the boundaries of photography, which this reviewer always finds most welcome. Taking photographs of TV sets, in whatever context, has become accepted practice; but going the extra step and extracting people from TV, to use them in photography, is new.

Doesn’t TV mostly work by instilling fear and dread and mystical imagery into our minds (just like contemporary politics btw, which at the beginning of this 21st Century has reduced election campaigns almost exclusively to dealing with - where not instilling - fear? Fear, of course, is always more powerful than hope, which is why the fear mongers will always win over those trying to inspire hope), which often makes us look for who (or what) might be lurking in the shadows of our own reality?

TV - quite unlike actual TV - thus contains more than what one would expect; and its message and effect reveals more and more facets the longer one looks at its imagery.