Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Conversation with Corinne Vionnet

Rhonegletscher , from the series From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake © Corinne Vionnet

We were introduced to the work of Corinne Vionnet during Nymphoto's First Call for Entries. Each of us immediately responded to the work and knew that we wanted to include Corinne's Rhonegletscher photograph (above) in the exhibit.
When the large print of the melting glacier arrived at Sasha Wolf Gallery from Switzerland we were were just stunned by the beauty of it. It simply was a master photograph.

Sion ; Rhonegletscher (III), from the series From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake © Corinne Vionnet

NP:Tell us a little about yourself.

CV:I like the grey weather and the smell of the sap of the pine trees. My best souvenirs of travels are often mostly simple and ordinary moments and about food. Sometimes I miss New York and Tokyo. I wish that teleportation existed so I could see my friends more often.

Gletsch, from the series From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake© Corinne Vionnet

NP: How dd you discover photography?

CV: I was given my first camera at the age of 8. My family has always been doing a lot of photography and so I have been doing it too since that age. However, I never thought about becoming a photographer. It happened somehow by accident – a decision "from one day to the next".

Rhone Cahier, © Corinne Vionnet

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

CV: A reading, a person next to me on the train speaking to his girlfriend, a detail in the corner of a coffee shop, a discussion with a friend….. No rules. Any place. Any time. There are little moments and things that can trigger ideas, either for a project, or maybe for a shot.

When a subject interests me, I first do research and reading. Some of the ideas then grow and are undertaken and some others remain on hold, die or sometimes leading to other projects.

London; Niagara from the series Photo Opportunities © Corinne Vionnet

NP: How do your projects come about?

CV: My projects have been largely influenced by the memory of places, as can be seen for example in the projects, "Photo Opportunities", "VeintiCuatro", or "From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake". Photography and memory have an obvious link, though these have been necessary steps for my personal research. I use photography as an extension of my hand (and eyes) to see and understand the world – an excuse for my endless curiosity maybe!

"From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake" came about after 2 years where I was working on the town in which I grew up. Monthey is an industrial town, which has been mainly developed thanks to the presence of the Rhone River. It is situated down in the Valley, close to the river itself and surrounded by the Swiss and French Alps. In July 2006, I crossed the whole county, starting from the top of the Glacier down, traveling with friends by car, and it suddenly seemed obvious to work on the whole Rhone valley. In fact, this obviousness was in a way related to my memories, as we were spending a lot of time with family in our home county; trekking, visiting, camping…. I remember that my father was able to name all the mountains. Early in 2007 I began the project.

The reason for doing this long trip on foot from the Rhone Glacier to Lake Geneva and using a large-format camera; is a wish to take the time – to see, feel, perceive and explore things differently. Before this, I was working mainly in medium format (6x6), however, 4x5 also gave me a different perception.

In this project, there is my own personal story which is suggested between the lines and therefore, most of the photographs have a reason or a link with my story – the yellow chairs are the place where we used to go camping as a family, ‘Rébecca’, is the person I trained with for many years on the ice, there is a photograph of my town, a power plant close to my hometown which closed and is dormant now for more than 10 years and places which I found that have changed, etc… However, the images don't try to be nostalgic or depict any emotions about the past. These photographs want to describe the present with a simple interrogation of the memories – transformed by time – which suddenly appear, by accident in the present. This, of course is my interpretation of the present and the interpretation of the place and how I see it now.

Julie, Monthey , from the series From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake © Corinne Vionnet

The first part from up on the Glacier was made in 6 full days. It really made me realize how demanding the climate of this mountain area is, the autonomy that it brings, the liberty, but also its isolation and the effect that has upon the type of relation one has with that area. In Gletsch, there is still this town that closes during the winter. People can only live there during the summer and therefore they close their houses before the winter arrives and move back down into the valley. I will certainly work back there again and maybe consider doing a project about other villages in Switzerland that close during the winter.

Ref #3; Ref#17 from the series Divertir © Corinne Vionnet

NP: What's next?

CV: First of all I want to finalize "From Rhone Glacier to Geneva Lake" and then to find a publisher.

I'm also sketching and working on a project inspired by comics. This has been on hold for 3 years and I'm only working on the development and unfolding of ideas and possibilities now. But first of all I need to see if this is feasible, so maybe a little too early to speak about it….

I'm also working now on 3 subjects related to these "snapshots" that I find on Internet. On of them is about the "National Days" that will be treated completely differently than "Photo Opportunities". Another will be a video based on a text from Georges Orwell's book, "1984".

Collaborations with other artists/photographers: A collective, survey9 (, which will be launched at the end August 2009, with the photographers Frédéric Bellay, Amy Chang and Mark Curran. My collaboration with William Boling has resulted in a first project called "Complete Desire". Since February of this year, we have been doing a cell phone essay and this should be soon available on For a long time, my husband Laurent Pavy and I would like to work together and so we hope to produce some work in 2010 ( There is usually never a lack of ideas, just definitely a lack of time!

I'm very lucky to work with The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai who represent my work and I will soon collaborate with a new gallery here in Switzerland where I will have a show before the end of this year. Naturally, I have some desire to show in New York…..

NP: Thank you so much!

To see more of Corinne's work please visit:

No comments: