Elsa Leydier

Elsa Leydier (1988, France) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. There, in Brazil, where she moved to in 2015, the young artist explores the limits of this society through photography, focusing on diverting the political charge of iconic images. The show Transatlántica bridges 3 recent projects of Leydier, all executed in Latin America between 2016 and 2018. All three series invite, in their own way, to question the dominant ways in which photography is exploited to represent the Amazon territories.

For Plátanos con Platino and Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas, Leydier modifies the colors of her photographs made in the Amazon region to produce a visually explosive and luminous image. In Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas, she resorts to depicting the tropical nature and haunting territorial particularities of Latin America, and at first glance, they seem like a familiar depiction of the region in their exoticism and radiance. Although, in fact, what Elsa focuses upon is the failures of vernacular representations of the territory. The series is a reminder of a degree to which the Amazon is glamorized by popular culture. Borrowing its language of luxury aesthetics, Leydier aims not at immersing the viewer in the lush greenery of the Amazon, but – quite the contrary – points at a misguiding romanticized nature of its representation.

Plátanos con Platino is also about twisting the representations. The series investigates Chocó, the region known and spoken of only as of the poorest and most violent in Colombia. However, it also happens to be one of the richest regions in the world in terms of its biodiversity, but the news doesn’t talk about that. Elsa Leydier is revealing Chocó’s luxuriance, a side less visible and often neglected. By doing so, she aims for breaking the consensual image of the Amazon region and, by the means of photography, gives it back the values it has lost. She joins the wonder of the poet Garcia Marquez who wrote in 1954 when he discovered this region: “If someone had the idea to sow a banana tree, the fruits would have grown loaded with platinum nuggets.”

Her latest project, Brazil: System Error (#elenão), is no less topical and ideologically charged. Iconic clichéd images of Brazil found through internet search engines were digitally modified to produce a political statement against stereotyping. In 2018, during the presidential campaign of Jair Bolsonaro, Leydier typed the word “Brazil” into a search engine. She fished out a series of banal illustrations of what is conventionally approved as ‘the Brazillian’. These often happy and colorful stereotypical images were altered by inserting into their text code the invectives pronounced by the candidate Bolsonaro. This resulted in visual glitches, bugs, that Elsa stages as a metaphor for the discordance between the-tropical-paradise cliché of Brazil and its present corrupted power machine. The series is executed in a form of lightboxes in wood and glass imitating a mobile phone, and they are silent witnesses of this iconic conflict.

Elsa Leydier discovered herself in photography after years of studying languages. She has graduated from École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles in 2015 and moved to Brazil right after. Leydier is one of the finalists for the Encontros da Imagen Discovery Award 2020 and was one of the finalists of FOAM Talent in 2019. She exhibited Transatlántica in 2019 at Paris Photo, at the Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon and at Galerie Intervalle who represents her work in Paris. She won the Maison Ruinart Paris Photo Prize 2019 and is the winner of the 2019 Dior Photography Award for Young Talents.

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