Finding Hollywood in northern France
by I-D vice
Thomas Humery sees ghosts of the French countryside in the mythic beauty of L.A.
French photographer Thomas Humery’s work presents deceptively simple places and objects imbued with a sort of mystical timelessness. Fascinated by the spiritual and mythic notions of champagne, he’s just wrapped a year-long photography project in collaboration with Dom Pérignon. This work is part of an artistic curation project led by renowned dancer, choreographer and director Benjamin Millepied and his creative partner Dimitri Chamblas. For his work, Humery set about drawing parallels between green, idyllic Hautvillers, the roots of Dom Pérignon, and Hollywood, the home of mythic glamour and decadence. The final book captures the power of inspiration. It is a masterpiece of corresponding images,contrasting the natural with the fictive and marrying colours, textures and organic forms from two sides of the world together effortlessly. We spoke to Humery about his unique vision for the project and how it came about.
Thomas, you began by meeting and speaking with Richard Geoffroy, the Chef de Cave of Dom Pérignon. Together you discussed the history, heritage and process of creating the champagne. How did that insight influence the project you then went on to create?
Thomas Humery: The conversation with Richard made me realise that making champagne is like creating a painting or building a house: you have a structure, a method and a vision. I knew from the start of the project that I wanted to use the structure of a book to show my pictures and so from there it became quite poetic; composing sentence after sentence, a chapter and then another chapter as time went by.
So the structure was a book and of course your method is photography, how did you develop the underlying concept, how did you choose to convey that vision?
TH: I took Dom Pérignon and divided it into different notions: blondness, green, pink, the minerality and that fictional, mythical aspect that champagne has. Using these notions I drew connections between Hautvillers, which is a virtually unknown place, to the most known place in the world – Hollywood. I didn’t want to compare one location to another, it was more like looking for the ghost of Hautvillers and Dom Pérignon in Hollywood; the pink shirt, the blonde woman, tracing that sort of mythology.
What do you think it is about Hollywood that continues to fascinate you and so many others around the world?
TH: There aren’t many places that bridge the gap between fantasy and reality. Hollywood is a city made of images, it’s almost fictional. You go there with so much about it already in your head and actually when you’re there it’s constant traffic and you can’t walk anywhere. It’s all about mythology.
A photograph of the sign to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood seems to perfectly sum up the duality of the project and the two locations. It acts as a sort of key to unlocking the whole series.
TH: The funny thing about Chateau Marmont is that the building itself was inspired by a chateau near the Loire river in France. For me it’s a real construction, it’s part of the myth of Hollywood. We tend to think of the old stars of Hollywood as characters from a sort of dream, but when you visit these places you can’t deny that they were real.
Alongside that idea of mythology, the aforementioned minerality comes through in the beautiful natural landscapes and textures captured in both places. How important to you was it to capture that aspect?
TH: Dom Pérignon is made with what nature gives you every year, it’s not totally rational. The champagne is very organic and in turn so was the artwork that we created. I had my vision and structure but I never knew exactly what I would capture.
How does the final artwork inform on that sense of ongoing discovery?
TH: The book shows the pictures alone and then in the second part you can find the titles and maybe a note on the subject. I’m here to propose an idea, not draw details or studies. It’s a book about inspiration and I really want people looking at these pictures to imagine their own stories.