Pierre Gonnord - Photo of the artist in front of his work - Photo Credits Kamila Ortiz

Pierre Gonnord

France 1963



Pierre Gonnord
Pierre Gonnord
March 16, 2015
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

Drawing his inspiration from the great masters of portrait genre, Pierre Gonnord takes large-scale photos of people that societies have disregarded and branded as outsiders – the poor, homeless, gypsies, the mad and the blind. Although his subjects are indeed people, his renderings leave the impression that they are metaphors for the weightiness of life. Trying to treat his subjects with much more hospitality and decency then what the rest of the world has shown them, Gonnord views these people through a lens of deep compassion and creates images which bring out their storied past in a reverent way. Pierre Gonnord is a real master portraitist of the dark underbelly of global civilization.

Pierre Gonnord - Adriano, 2010 (left), Elena, 2010 (right) - NOTE: Portraits of 2016 coal miners has not hit the news yet
Pierre Gonnord – Adriano, 2010 (left), Elena, 2010 (right)

The Idea Behind The Lens

Pierre Gonnord was born in France in 1963 and – as far as photography goes – is almost completely self-taught. His work can be described as a contemporary historian, as he built his photography career by creating images of communities that are constantly on the verge of extinction and in fear for tomorrow. The surprising part comes from the fact Gonnord uses classical methods of portraiture to depict his subjects. His photos are full of grace, charming lighting and details that were once attributed only to the art’s greats of the 17th and 18th century – at times, it’s hard to be sure if you’re looking at a perfectly done oil painting or a photography. He begins his projects by infiltrating lowest societies, spending months at locations reserved only for the poorest and the unluckiest among us. This is an important piece of the jigsaw Gonnord makes as it’s crucial for him to establish an honest line of communication with his future subjects, to gain their trust and to know them as much as possible for such a relatively short period of time. Only then is he ready to make the next step and start planning the photo shoot sessions. Channeling the pure elegance through his portraits of troubled individuals makes Gonnord’s work simultaneously mesmerizing and shocking, as we would never even imagined seeing such themes represented in a way Pierre Gonnord made possible. His large-scale prints are centered upon the dramatically lit faces of his subjects whose heads emerge from characteristic dark backgrounds. We almost feel ashamed as we realize just how much dignity and beauty there is in the eyes of these troubled humans we’ve failed as a modern society.

Gonnord’s pieces have been known to cause strong emotional reactions

Pierre Gonnord - Rogiero II, 2014 (left), Charlotte, 2010 (right) - - NOTE: Portraits of 2016 coal miners has not hit the news yet
Pierre Gonnord – Rogiero II, 2014 (left), Charlotte, 2010 (right)

Describing Gonnord’s Work Further

Similar to the way Francisco Goya immortalized the vagrants of a country ravaged by war or when Caravaggio elevated street life to the height of history painting, so too does Gonnord explore the similar darkness of his time as each one of his photographies exists as a testament to the casualties left behind by a quickly developing world. Gonnord finds such people through traveling – in his search for desolate individuals led him to countries of South America, Japan and Spain (where he decided to stay permanently in 1988). There he searched for urban homeless youth, the blind, tired farmers and coal miners. Essentially, people that their societies have deemed necessary to disregard. He frames them from the waist up and captures the images using nothing but natural light against a deep black drop cloth that Gonnord carries with him. On the faces that end up as center focuses of photos are mapped the vulnerable, wounded, occasionally hostile reality of those who live, for the most part, unseen. They are at the same time disturbing, beautiful and rife with purpose and honesty. To make things even more personal, Gonnord prefers titling his photos by the actual names of his subjects, which brings a whole new level of intimacy into play. He does not exclusively work with humans all the time, as he has been known to take photographs of the animals present in slums he visit as well. Pierre Gonnord has had a lot of success over the years, being involved with many solo and group shows hosted by prestigious institutions such as the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Case Asia in Barcelona, the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla and the Centro de Fotografía Universidad de Salamanca. His photos are a part of quite a few notable public and private collections as well.

Gonnord’s subjects aren’t always humans as he sometimes likes taking shots of animals as well

Pierre Gonnord - Ortigao, 2014 - NOTE: Portraits of 2016 coal miners has not hit the news yet
Pierre Gonnord – Ortigao, 2014

On The Front Lines

Why most of us don’t care about people that fit the profile of Gonnord’s work? Perhaps we tell ourselves they are beyond any help we can provide and we tell this lie so often that it seems as the truth. The point of Gonnord’s photos of prisoners, the homeless, the mad and the blind is to make us remember they are humans too. Each worn face is given to us to explore and question how it reached the state it is in today. In a sense, he takes people who are often considered less than human and makes them larger than life. Gonnord explores the truth and humanity in every imperfection his subjects are hosts of. What is most startling about his work is not the visual experience – which is, without a doubt, a beautiful one – but the hard fact that these photos are probably the only ones these people are ever gonna take. This sends a cold shiver down our spines like only a few things are capable of doing.

The artist is represented by Hasted Kraeutler in New York, US.

Pierre Gonnord lives and works in Madrid, Spain.

Featured Image: Pierre Gonnord – Photo of the artist in front of his work – Photo Credits Kamila Ortiz
All Images Photo Credits Pierre Gonnord

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016PhotographerCentro de Arte Alcobendas ESSolo
2015The Dream Goes Over TimeHasted Kraeutler, New York, NYGroup
2014GAIA, Forosur 14 Palacio Hernando de Ovando, Cáceres, SpainGroup
2014Entre el Cielo y la TierraReal Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, SpainGroup
2014Coal Museo de la Suderurgia y la Minería, León, SpainGroup
2013Pierre Gonnord: Portraits 21c Museum, Louisville, KYGroup
2013Pierre Gonnord: Fotografías CEART de Fuenlabrada, Madrid, SpainGroup
2013Pierre GonnordMC2 Gallery, Milan, ItalyGroup
2013L’ œil Photographique FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, FranceGroup
2013Portraying the South SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GAGroup
2013Au-Delà du Tage Trienal no Alentejo, Evora, PortugalGroup
2013Seduced by Art Caixa Forum, BarcelonaGroup
2012Territories Galleria Juana, Madrid, Spain, June - JulyGroup
2012Great Photographs: Scape Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NYGroup
2011Pierre Gonnord: Relatos Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NYSolo
2011Real VeniceSomerset House, London, U.K.Group
2011Real Venice Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice as part of the 54th Venice BiennaleGroup
2010Terre de Personne, Monasterio de San Martin Pinario, Santiago de Compostela, SpainGroup
2010Témoins, Centre Photographique d’ile de France, FranceGroup
2010Pierre Gonnord, Cloitre de l’Abbaye de La Chaise -Dieu, FranceSolo
2010Pierre Gonnord, Photospring Festival, Urs Meile Gallery, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2009Pierre Gonnord, Frac Auverge, Clermont Ferrand, FranceSolo
2009Testimoni, Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milano, ItalyGroup
2009Terre de Personne Sala Alcalá, 31. Madrid, SpainGroup
2008Testigos Patio Escuelas Menores, Centro de Fotografia Universidad de Salamanca, SpainGroup
2008Sous la peau, Atelier des ForgesRencontres Internacionales Photographie, Arles, France.Group
2008La Interplación muda Palacio de Molina La Mar de Artes, Cartegna, SpainGroup
2008Pierre Gonnord á l’épreuve du portraitVisa pour l’image, Perpignan, FranceSolo
2008 Utopians, Bratislava City Gallery Internacional Month of Photography, Slovaquia RepublicGroup
2008Festival Fotografico de Helsinki Helsinki City Art Museum, FinlandGroup
2008Bienal de Fotografia de Córdoba(Mapas del Sujeto), Cordoba, SpainGroup
2007Paris - Sevilla Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, SpainGroup
2007El puente de la visión Museo de Bellas Artes de Santander, Santander, SpainGroup
2006Pierre Gonnord French Institute Gallery, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2006Asian PortraitsCasa Asia, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2006Realidades Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla, Sevilla, SpainGroup
2005Oeuvres 1999-2005 Maison Europeénne de La Photographie, Paris, FranceGroup
2003Far East Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, SpainGroup
2003Identidades Transitorias (with Tanit Plana) Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Within PhotoEspaña 03 Program, Group
2002City Galeria Miguel Marcos, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2001RegardsGaleria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, PortugalGroup
2000Bimba, Delfin, Patricia... Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Within PhotoEspaña 99 Program, Madrid, SpainGroup