Like dying nature, Jacqueline Salmon’s photographs exalt the unsuspected beauty of rare and everyday vegetables, with grace that is sometimes surprisingly worthy of old frescoes.
The title of this exhibition is inspired by the collection of thoughts Propos sur la racine des legumes (A Topic on the Roots of Vegetables) by Hong Zicheng, a philosopher from the Ming dynasty.
The series La racine des legumes (The Root of Vegetables), produced between 1998 and 2000, is signed by Jacqueline Salmon and Robert F. Hammerstiel.
“I asked Robert to be my assistant in this work which had to be done in the 4 x 5 inch Chamber, and which I couldn’t produce alone, and he agreed. Very quickly, we needed two to think, two to make decisions, undeniably what we did together didn’t exactly resemble what I would have done on my own and I decided to sign with him. The vegetables are grown by Gilles Béréziat on the “Ferme des Bioux” in Buellas near Bourg-en-Bresse. His vegetables flabbergasted me one day at a market in Ain, when I had started work in the royal vegetable garden in Versailles, where they were disappointing. But, by geographically moving my subject, I lost his funding! And neither the book nor the exhibition has ever existed. The work lasted more than two years as we lacked cash and formed a friendship with the market gardener and his family. We sometimes decided on any missing varieties together. He let us know when the leeks, cabbages and aubergines were ripe. We then had to go to Buellas, cross the fields, choose the vegetables, dig them up and transport them to an improvised studio under the barn away from direct sunlight which would have wilted them within a few minutes. Robert wanted artificial lighting to avoid the colours of daylight, blue in the morning, orangey in the evening. But the plant would instantly have looked unwell with the heat from the lights. We had to decide not to control the colour of the concrete floor which we used as a background. Robert built scaffolding from potato boxes which he climbed onto, and the chamber was then suspended above the carefully swept ground, on which I placed the plant. We then had to add volume using a set of small pins, balls, cubes and twigs, clean the roots using a paintbrush and dry the ground, so that the rootlets didn’t stick together and no water droplets marked the ground”. Jacqueline Salmon.
Jacqueline Salmon was born in Lyon in 1943 and now lives in Paris.
She studied interior design at the National School of Applied Arts, taught dance, produced some theatre sets and various historical exhibitions. For some years, she has devoted her life to music, botany, reading and writing a journal: Passé composé and Futur antérieur, two volumes which were developed at the same time in memory of and in the imagination of the future, from moments experienced in the present.
A riding accident turned her life upside down in 1973. She then discovered photography and in 1981 decided to devote her time solely to this. The relations maintained by History, Architecture and Art in general with philosophy will be at the centre of her concerns. In 1981 her meeting with the plastic artist Aline Ribière led to a long series of work in collaboration. In 1984, the “Mission du patrimoine photographique” (Photographic Heritage Commission) placed an order for the Le Corbusier convent, which was to be exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo Museum for the architect’s centenary in 1988. In 1987, together with Jean Jacques Romagnoli, she founded the association Photographie d’Auteur within which she was responsible for the publishing and commissioning of exhibitions. Numerous invitations to conferences in Eastern Europe enabled her to meet Robert F. Hammerstiel, a young photographer. In 1993, she was awarded the “Villa Médicis Hors les murs” prize with her project Entre centre et absence. She has also carried out remarkable work at the Sangatte Centre.