Watching TV, 2004-2007
Olivier Culmann photographs people watching TV. And their TV sets. The viewers’ eyes are glued to the screen, hypnotized by the images that flicker by. Olivier Culmann captures that instant during which attention subsides and consciousness slumbers, rocked to sleep by the phosphorescence of the cathode ray tubes. At that instant, their bodies often become comfortable, they curl up on the couch and then collapse. Nothing could be more banal. And nothing more unsettling. Because that is how, in quasi-immobile passivity, when the brain has gone numb, that we television viewers receive the world in its entirety. Not the real world, but an image of that world, a ghostly version of reality. The news, comedy series, broadcasts from the other ends of the planet, or from just downstairs, are plopped down before our anaesthetized eyes. Their impact is enormous. During that time during which existence is deadened, that may last a few minutes or several hours, our ideas about others evolve and are transformed. Our preconceptions collapse and others replace them, inexorably.
Morocco, India, the United States, Mexico, Nigeria, United Kingdom, China, France : TV viewers in those countries receive news about each other without ever meeting. As they sit in front of the TV set, we get the feeling we know them.
Looking at them, Olivier Culmann is looking at us.
World Press Photo 3rd prize (Contemporary Issues storie), 2007
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