Official portraits

Photographs by Sylvie Huet

Exhibition from December 2nd, 2017 to January 6th, 2018
From the book "A Story of Bears" published by Dewi Lewis, 2014
Alan Measles, 51 years old. Grayson Perry's confidant. Londres. 2013 - Sylvie Huet - FLAIR Galerie

Alan Measles, 51 years old. Grayson Perry's confidant. Londres. 2013
Silver print on Kodak Endura Premier paper
28 x 28 cm
© Sylvie Huet

I could not have imagined when, at the age of forty-nine, I found my childhood teddy bear in a flea market, the fervour that this reunion would kindle. How so many adults, here and elsewhere, have arduously guarded the bear in their life, how certain bears have inspired celebrities (Jean-Paul Gaultier, Jane Goodall…), I hadn’t the slightest inkling. I only discovered this by telling my own story about a hundred times. During this photo shoot, the bear became a kind of Petite Madeleine, childhood archives were unpacked, and I was now privy to family secrets.

The stuffed bear, the one that watches over us, is like a photographic archive, a souvenir of someone or something. And similar to a souvenir, its very presence, within reach, reassures and permits relapses into the past. Vernacular photographs, dense with clues concerning “What was”, are like wounded, patched bears, each single stitch reminds one of a childhood moment or resuscitates a query. Photographing the bear is like getting advice from an ancestor. You search for the photographs where you posed with him, you call your mother or that brother you haven’t spoken to in ages. “When was that?” “It’s coming back to me!” “You remember?” He was surely there all along, but often silent. By making him pose for long periods in front of my precious Hasselblad, probing his most eloquent gaze, I transformed him into a true archetype. Once his “official portrait” hung on the wall, he secured for himself a second life, just like any other member of the family. Closer even, more present.

Sylvie Huet, 2017


A Second life

One Sunday, in a flea market where an antique dealer had brought me along, I saw a woman stop to stare at me from afar, fixated. Then she came right up and hugged me tightly. Teddy bear collectors rarely conduct themselves in this manner. It reminded me of the way a little girl used to take me in her arms when she was sad. Years ago. What could I do the day her mother pawned me off cheaply with some old junk in the very same city. Could it be her? When the dealer greeted her, she asked him: “How much?” “150 euros,” he answered. “It’s a highly coveted bear.” “Highly coveted, you have no idea.” An hour later, I was back home, with two more pairs of eyes checking me out. Is it him? Sylvie’s parents were betting I was an impostor. After digging through crates of souvenirs, they finally recognized one of my distinguishing traits and conceded to my authenticity. Sylvie was so frightened to lose me again that she installed me in her apartment in Paris. And that’s when the story begins…

Buddy the Bear, 2004

Translated by Ilsa Carter and Pierre Guglielmina