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MSU Museum exhibits feature photographic portraits by Gilles Perrin
Dopkye, Peasant, farm laborer, Tsopup, Tibet, 2006. Photograph © Gilles Perrin.

EAST LANSING, MICH.- Large format back and white photographic portraits by French photographer Gilles Perrin, in collaboration with his wife, interviewer Nicole Ewenczyk are the focus of two exhibits currently at the MSU Museum through Jan. 12, 2014.

Visual narratives of workers are documented in both exhibitions An Extraordinary Document of Our World and Detroit Resurgent. Through the portraits and interviews they show the dignity of work in a world that is always changing and evolving.

Perrin sees his job as an artist and social documentarian, in part, to document people and places in transition; exploring ways of life that are disappearing as well as, in Detroit, those that are emerging. The idea of ritual and ceremony are central to Perrin’s humanistic approach. His portraits are never taken furtively and are never, as he says, “stolen.” There is always a dialogue with his subjects who he engages in the image-making process turning the act of taking a photograph into an act of sharing between photographer and subject.

“What drives me above all is the thirst to scrutinize people, to draw out the fine detail, to tease out of my subjects their social reality, their inner self, the-way-they-are and not the-way-they-seem-to-be ... and through my work to record their vitality forever, says Perrin.”

An Extraordinary Document of Our World gives a sweeping perspective of workers in diverse fields compiled over 25 years of travel. Visitors meet fishermen from Ireland, artisans from France, Mali and the U.S., farmers from Finland, Vietnam and Tibet, foundry workers from Peru, among a few.

MSU Museum Adjunct Curator and MSU School of Journalism professor Howard Bossen saw the striking stories in Perrin’s photographs and envisioned a companion project, Detroit Resurgent. Last year, Gilles Perrin and Nicole Ewenczyk interviewed and photographed 64 subjects from diverse fields who are remaking the city of Detroit. The interviews, meanwhile, are included in Detroit Resurgent a book that will be published by the MSU Press in April 2014.

The Detroit Resurgent exhibit focus is not on the decayed Rust Belt vision of Detroit so often presented, but rather it taps the human energy that is working toward revitalizing the Greater Detroit area, according to Bossen.

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