Guillaume Tomasi’s Chrysalises, Perceptions Of The World Around Us

Chrysalises is a project held together on a shoestring, borne of Tomasi becoming a father and beginning to think about how personal events can easily alter our perception of the world around us. Although Chrysalises spawned from that new-found fatherhood, it is instead a project about something much more abstract – it is a poetry about our perception of the world around us, whilst thinking of the way in which we protect children from the mundane realities of the world.

Photography By Guillaume Tomasi
Words By Wes Foster

Beginning from these ideas of perspective, and presentation, it quickly became something more abstract as it became more a scatological collection of thoughts and images, though with something that seems to tie them together. It feels reflective of internal monologue, and the sort of work we’d all like to be able to create naturally. Like all of the best work, it’s hard to say if it’s accidental, or absolute genius.

This early development of the project was sparked through the new-found responsibility for another, but the pivotal moment was the way in which during a fever, his son asked him “Where did all the butterflies go?”, pronounced perfectly despite only being two, before falling asleep again. In part the project is realisation of the world around us, in part it questions when we lose our imaginative spirit. Parenting is in part preservation – nurturing a need to keep the child protected, and away from danger and in part that often means keeping them away from reality. There is nothing to fear more than the mundane. From this came the questioning of what his son’s moment of realisation will be, and how that process of renegotiating the world around him will come about,

Stemming from that came reflections on where this happened for himself, and those moments which made him look differently at the world around him. It would be wrong to characterise this as some sort of epiphany: it’s much less aggrandised than that. It seems more to be a moment built upon a sort of serendipity – less so a realisation than finding a comfort within the actuality of reality.

In the project, ‘people are an in-between’ even though it is very much a humanist project. figures are rarely physically there; they are always present. They are always both inside and outside the frame; they are not the subject but they are always the pivotal point. Originally Guillaume had put together an edit without portraits, though this lead to it being too distant, and no longer felt that the project had the poetry which was required. Any portraits which have been included in the series are always a vague figure, rather than an outright portrait, and quite easily the same image could be a part of the series without the figure. They simply serve as a reminder, a way to return the viewer back into the project. They do however contain many clues to Tomasi’s own intimate relationship with the work, through the images of mother and child. Lack of presence allows the images to sit well with the small excerpts that accompany the images: it focuses on the complete ambiguity of the author and their life, but highlights the importance of that moment, that realisation to each of them.

Thinking about the way in which the text and image work together is something gladly avoided during the process of making the work – the photographs aren’t really supposed to be influenced by the texts; instead they both lead towards pointing out something more absurd, which is concurrent for everyone. By taking the subject matter away from individuals, the project automatically explores the larger idea at stake and knits together the thoughts (the writing) and feelings (the images). To find this balance, Tomasi would record the people he met, then later transcribe it into something more prose like, allowing it to fit in with the style he was pursuing. In a sense, the authorship then belongs to no one person: it is no longer the original subject’s, though this original influence has been too strong to be Guillaume’s also.

Tomasi seems to work in a similar style to street photographers – carrying a camera always, though walks to the same place each day, allowing him to notice the small changes in between each trip. Mostly it comes down to luck that he spots something: much like the writing which accompanies his work it is based on the absurd, and seeks a visual poetry. This means short shoots – usually using up one or two rolls of film at a time, and slowly building up a catalogue of images to choose from. This approach is essential for this arguably absurdist outcome – there needs to be a wealth and richness to the images collated which similar to poetry can have flow and nuance.

The sharp, rich images of Chrysalises don’t really belong together, instead they have been curated to be together. It’s exactly this visual poetry which sets the project apart. The imagery is not dictated either by an aesthetic, nor by a referential narrative. This is a work which is not often found: it makes a habitat in the middle of those two approaches. Through doing this the beauty of the imagery is all Tomasi, though the work still has a grounding which is very readily available to the viewer, precisely because the text is anonymous. It’s a task to balance the photographic and the written, and by using texts separate to the images themselves the idea of what Guillaume is exploring is pushed violently to the fore. This is much more existential than something focused on individual problems, with solutions. This is a project about how we see and feel the world, but above all, when the world changes within our view.

Guillaume Tomasi’s Chrysalises, Perceptions Of The World Around Us