Botanical photograms

Christelle Boulé made experimental photograms of a herbarium
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© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

In her series Botanica, inspired by the Montpellier Garden, Christelle Boulé made experimental photograms of a real herbarium. Boulé visually translated the invisible, such as scents, sounds, emotions and time, into colourful images. She investigates ways of revealing what we cannot perceive with the naked eye. "I imagined this timeless garden through a series of colour photograms".

For Boulé, the most intriguing aspect of Botanica is that some of the plants are extinct. "These plants only existed in the past. With Botanica, I want to pay homage to nature and to the time that passes. It is a journey between the past and the present in a timeless garden imagined on photo paper. A highlight of nature's past forms and the present time that is passing".

© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

Translucent objects

The photograms of Christelle Boulé are made without a camera in the darkroom. She places translucent objects on light-sensitive paper. The colours in the photograms depend on the type of photo paper and the emulsion it contains. When she shines a light on these objects in the darkroom, shadowy effects are created, which influences the colour of the photogram. Afterwards, she develops the sensitive paper into a visual image.

Boulé: "The origin of my method of photograms dates back to my series Parfums, which I made during my studies at the ECAL/University of Art and Design in Lausanne. I realised how much I loved working in the darkroom and how I loved that each image was unique".

© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

Forgotten memories

The initial series Perfumes arose from her fascination with the sense of smell. Her greatest inspiration for her first black and white photograms came from the world of perfumes. "Old and forgotten memories can bring so many amazing scents. It is magic to tell a story with only the smell of perfume. I find it fascinating how a perfume scent can create a work of art. My photograms are inspired by photographers like Man Ray, Anna Atkins and Josef Breitenbach. I am always attracted to photographers who have created works using experimental techniques".

© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

Herbarium archive

Boulé's style of working changed during her experiments from black and white to increasingly colourful images. She had the opportunity to collaborate with the Boutographies Festival of Montpellier, where the Montpellier Botanical Garden became a great inspiration for the Botanica series. "The creation of the coloured photograms started when the Boutographies Festival of Montpellier asked me if I wanted to present my work to the Botanical Gardens of Montpellier for an exhibition. I researched Montpellier's garden herbarium, an archive that is about six kilometres long, consisting of dried plants, seeds, flowers and petals. This awe-inspiring herbarium archive displays multiple natural treasures, such as extinct plants and faded species from hundreds of years ago. The Botanica series was a great opportunity for me to experiment with photograms on the subject of transience. I imagined a series of colour photograms with living elements next to extinct elements".

© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

Space to imagine

Botanica is a tribute to nature and to the passage of time. It is a journey between the past and the present, depicted as a timeless garden. "I get the colours of each photogram by exposing the paper to a light source in the darkroom. The different colours are created when the light shines through the plants. I like that my photos appear as ethereal and abstract, giving the viewers the space to imagine their own story. Some plants are extinct. They only existed in the past. It fascinates me to imagine what plants that don't exist anymore would have looked like in reality".

© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

Petals sand flowers

During her walks in nature, Boulé collected many different flowers, leaves and plants for Botanica and brought them to the darkroom. "I like to take long walks in parks and forests. The objects I have collected from nature are diverse and varied. I am interested in their colours, shapes, textures and smells. I have photographed smaller components such as pollen, pistils and seeds, petals, flowers, leaves and branches separately. But sometimes, I have also grouped them as bouquets or arranged them according to their structure, nuances or shapes. Other times I have let the natural elements macerate on the photo paper to capture their essence".

© Christelle Boulé | Botanica

Smell and sounds

When Boulé moved from Canada to Switzerland, she developed a passion for making perfumes and fragrances, which she also wanted to represent in art. "I wondered how I could photograph something as invisible and ephemeral as a fragrance. This was the starting point of an incredible journey towards creating images that represent something we cannot see. I wanted to visually translate elements that we cannot see, such as smells, sounds, emotions and time. Therefore, the connotation of my work is probably much more focused on the inner world than the outer world".

Christelle Boulé (1984) is a Canadian-Swiss artist and photographer. She received her bachelor's degree in graphic design from the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. She graduated with a Master of Art Direction in photography from the ECAL/University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland. Boulé lives and works alternately in Paris and Lausanne and divides her time between commissioned work and personal projects. She is currently an artist in residence at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

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