Karine Laval.

“This is my office/studio area, in one corner of my Williamsburg loft where I’ve lived for 13 years now. I mostly work from there, except when I’m on the road or when I print my images (I rent a darkroom in Manhattan for that).”

Karine Laval Born in Paris in 1971, “she currently lives and works in New York. Educated at the University of La Sorbonne and the University of ASSAS in Paris, where she majored in communications and journalism, she completed her education with photography and design courses at Cooper Union, SVA and the New School of New York.

Particularly noteworthy among her solo shows are: French Cultural Center, Oslo and Nattgalleriet (The Night Gallery), Sorlandet Art Museum, Kristiansand ((Norway) and Histoires d’Eau at the Bonni Benrubi gallery in New York City and the M+B Gallery in Los Angeles (USA).”

FROM YOUR DESKS: What does water symbolize to you? 

KARINE LAVAL: I’ve always been drawn to water and water’s edges. I learned to swim very young, grew up sailing with my family and regularly visiting my father in the Caribbean, where he lived when I was a teenager. And I surf. I find water to be appeasing, healing and liberating. I also see water as a vehicle for transformation and self-reflection and I think that water speaks to the senses.

FYD: You commenced The Pool in 2002. Do you find pools carry a common vibe or unison- the swimmers, divers, the sunbathers?

KL: The swimming pools I have been photographing since 2002 all have something in common of course. They unite both the natural element of water with a man-made environment. I have always been interested in architecture – especially modernist architecture, which often integrates the natural elements and raw materials with simple, geometrical lines and shapes. I also find swimming pools interesting because they represent a dominant theme of our culture and life style, and there is a theatrical aspect to swimming pools in the way that people’s activities and gestures are contained within a delineated space. A little like a theater or a dance stage. Contemporary dance was a strong inspiration when I started to work on my initial Pool series.

 A world within a world, a sort of mise en abyme.

FYD: I recall that famous scene in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman’s character goes underwater in his family’s pool and the deep sense of claustrophobia he feels in his diving suit. What is it like underwater for you?

KL: It’s interesting… as much as I love water and many water sports, I don’t enjoy scuba diving. I tried but also felt claustrophobic and too dependent on the equipment. It’s hard to forget about it and feel totally free. However, I love swimming underwater and look beneath the surface of the sea. But I prefer to do it liberated from any gear, until I can’t hold my breath anymore.

FYD: Have you ever shot in country clubs or private pools? Is the milieu different; the way people behave?

KL: For my latest project, “Mise en abyme” (which is being exhibited at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York from January 13th through March 19th), I have photographed exclusively private pools. However, I think this new series marks a departure from my previous work in both tone and depth. It is more about shape, color, texture and the depiction of a world at the edge of the real and surreal. Unlike the Pool series, for which I was more focused on the social and leisure aspect of the places and the mundane activities revolving around them, I’m trying here to explore the friction between the real and the imaginary. In this new work, the pool is not the main subject in a literal sense. I see it more as a metaphor, a mirror whose surface reflects the surrounding world but is also a gate into another – dreamlike -world, a world within a world, a sort of mise en abyme.

I find water to be appeasing, healing and liberating.

The title of this new series/exhibition is originally from the French and means “placing into infinity” or “placing into the abyss“. The commonplace usage of this phrase is describing the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, seeing an infinite reproduction of one’s image. The meaning of mise en abyme also includes the idea of a dream within a dream and refers to the confusion between reality and the imagined. This is one of the characteristics of photography I’m interested in exploring, particularly in this series.

The term can also be interpreted as a self-reflection and somehow I perceive the ambiguity of the work – oscillating between hell and heaven, stillness and movement, darkness and lightness – as an echo to my personal experience these past 2-3 years and my quest for a new beginning in my life and new direction in my work.


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