Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019)
Eclectic artist Agnès Varda (1928-2019) was born in Belgium as Arlette Varda but legally changed her name to Agnès at 18. During World War II, Agnès and her family lived on a boat in Sète, her mother’s birthplace. Agnès is considered a forerunner of the French New Wave, exploring new approaches to editing, visual style and social and political engagement through her photography and filmmaking. While her brilliance shined through in both of these art forms individually, she strived to maintain a fluid interconnection between them.
In order to pursue her calling for photography, Agnès studied at the Vaugirard School of Photography. In 1915, she became the official photographer of the Théâtre National Populaire, in which she worked for 10 years. In the meantime, her popularity as a photographer and cinematographer was rapidly expanding all over Europe. Agnès turned to motion picture but always kept photography as her inspiration. ‘I took photographs of everything I wanted to film, photographs that are almost models for the shots. And I started making films with the sole experience of photography, that’s to say, where to place the camera, at what distance, with which lens and what lights?’
Agnès describes her approach to filmmaking as feminine and instinctive. One of her masterpieces, Cléo from 5 to 7, portrays a woman coming to terms with her mortality and striving to construct herself through her own vision by overcoming the oppressive gaze of others. Agnès identified herself with a malformed potato, and with the gleaner who picks it up from the ground. She dressed up as a potato to celebrate the inauguration of ‘Patatutopia’, her immersive art installation built using 700 pounds of tubers at the Venice Biennale.