When walking into Paris’s first retrospective exhibition of the photographs of Eva Besnyö at the Jeu de Paume, I was met with three mysterious images, visually linked by their askew perspectives. One is a self-portrait of Besnyö, who was born in Budapest in 1910 and broke free of Hungary’s provincial constraints to become a Berlin-based photographer at the young age of 20. The image of the woman in the portrait looks, in a word, contemporary. Unconventionally beautiful, Besnyö looks intensely into her medium format camera, hair tousled as her neck cranes above the view finder to which she is acutely focused, projecting an image of herself as an intense, slightly bohemian artist at work. Besnyö orchestrated this image of 1931 so that the viewer looks up to her from down below, and thus elevated before us is a powerful figure who directs our gaze and controls her own image long before similar strategies were conceived by feminist artists of the 1960s. It is from this point that the viewer commences into an exhibition of 120 prints by a photographer who has been given too little attention.
Architecture students quickly learn the value of a good model. Although nothing expresses the true intention of a design as well as a model, especially for the general public, the life of a model is often sad and brief. After the big presentation day, the little pieces of cardboard and wood, so carefully carved during too many all-nighters, begin to deteriorate in closets and attics. Models are too delicate for a world built at 1:1. Once dust starts to appear, the garbage can soon follows.
Les élèves d’architecture apprennent bien vite la valeur des maquettes. Quoique rien peut évoquer la vérité d’un dessin comme une maquette, surtout pour le grand public, la vie d’une maquette est souvent triste et court. Après la grande épreuve devant les profs, les morceaux de carton et de bois si précisément ciselés pendant les nuits blanches s’écroulent lentement dans les ombres des placards et des greniers. Les maquettes sont trop délicates pour un monde construit en 1:1. Après la poussière, la poubelle.