Stéphane Couturier, Georg Treu Square in Dresden, silver photograph from the series Urban Archaeology, 1997.

In 1997, the photographer Stéphane Couturier was invited by the French Institute in Dresden to carry out an artistic residency. The result of this was a series of images that immortalise, in a very particular way, the reconstruction work undertaken in the historic city centre.

This artist constructs his pictures using a precise technique that consists in flattening out the photographed scene. He achieves this effect by the combined use of an oblong grid and an absence of focus. Thus, all the elements in the photograph have the same importance. This archaeologist-like meticulousness leads to a deliberate visual blurring of the different planes in the image. This technique can be seen at work in this photograph of Georg Treu Square, where a kind of mise en abime appears:  a reflection in the tarpaulin revealsa historic building under reconstruction. The foreground is occupied by crane posts and the sad ruins of a classical palace; the background shows the Albertinum building (former arsenal, now a museum of 19th and 20th century art), whose roof is deliberately cropped at the top in order to open up the skyline. All this means that at first glance the result looks more like a photomontage than a real photograph.

Stéphane Couturier likes to play with the ambiguity of so-called photographic objectivity. He designs these high-definition images so that they can be printed out in very large formats, thus creating a real, life-sized environment for the bewildered viewer. The artist questions our capacity to critically distance ourselves from the image of the city in eternal (re)construction, which he presents to us at one fleeting moment in its history.

Sonia de Puineuf