After creating ‘American Dream, This is not a dream' (2006) aimed at denouncing the medias' perception of the American war in Iraq, Laurent Elie Badessi has again chosen to depict American society through his 2016 project ‘Age of Innocence'. This series of photographs – of which we have assembled some of the most striking for this exhibition – offers us a paradoxical point of view about the United States.
In a country where guns form an integral part of a well-established tradition and where the right to carry weapons is deemed both sacred and constitutional, a significant proportion of children and teenagers have access to firearms and use them. Surprisingly, it is the same youth that is deeply affected by shootings incidents and gun violence and who is the first victim during massive killings, accidents and murders, as well as suicide.
In order to highlight this ambivalent relationship between American youth and guns, Laurent Elie Badessi has chosen to photograph children with a gun, whether they are used to handling firearms or not. He hence explores the affective and sociological connection between a child with his weapon. Some are fake, others are real: here is the interest, according the artist – to capture the subject's behaviour depending on the nature of his gun and on his experience but also to mention the potential confusion which may exist between the game and what is real.
Faced with the world of weapons when he settled in Texas in the 1990s, Laurent Elie Badessi focusses primarily on the reassuring aspect of firearms and in particular on the weapon being handled safely and correctly. Whatever our view on this issue, the artist defends the priority to build a healthy and peaceful environment.
The artistic choice of black and white portraits creates a harmonious, timeless state which invites us to think about the everlasting and controversial question of guns and their control in the United States.
The careful ‘mise en scène' of the subjects fascinates – what lies behind their various facial expressions, a mix of determination, pride, serenity and amusement? Through photographic art, the artist tells us a story, that of this generation of American youth, by means of the same question asked to each: " What do you like about guns ? "
Between pleasure and beauty, safety and protection, their answers – that we can read below each photograph – are diverse and allow us to better understand this very real gun culture that is an inextricable part of United States' history.