Anne-Laure Autin is a French photographer and mixed-media artist currently residing in the Netherlands. She studied theoretical mathematics and holds an MSc from the University of Leiden. Her work has been exhibited internationally, in the USA including at the Corden Potts gallery, the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Center for Fine Arts Photography and Soho Photo gallery, as well as in Canada, at the Brighton Photo Fringe (UK), at FestFoto in Brazil, and at the Berlin Foto Biennale. Autin's work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Her first monograph Blood Line, published by +Kris Graves Projects, was released in 2017. Her images have been featured among others on Musée Magazine, Lenscratch, L’Oeil de la Photographie, LensCulture, Underexposed and Light Leaked. She was a Critical Mass finalist in 2017 and in 2016 as well as a BPF OPEN16 Solo finalist. Anne-Laure is represented by Corden-Potts Gallery in San Francisco.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Blood Line
Once your parents pass away, you realize you’re next in line. My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the tender age of 64. Blood Line investigates how his inescapable disease and death also affected my own life. My subjects are my daughters, my flesh and blood, his descendants. They are actors. He experienced, I processed, they embody.
With this work I address how terminal illness turns lives upside down and affects communication and identity. When I was with my dad, he and I knew his days were numbered. I was able to say things I might not have shared before, but I also found myself withholding private thoughts. My version of reality and truth shifted. Blood Line illustrates the ensuing coding of language and our morphing sense of Self.
Life as I knew it was radically redefined and my personal definition of a photograph evolved. In much of the work, I altered the surface of my pigment ink prints with the medical supplies that overtook our lives, such as gauze, suture thread, eosin…, even my own blood that I drew from my fingers. I cut the prints with scalpels and tore them by hand. By lineage, I am the literal link between my father and my daughters. Now I am also that link through the work of my hands.
A year later he is gone, and when I am too, the photographs will still be there to connect us all.
When and where did Blood Line begin?
My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in October 2015. He had had a couple of small tumors some years before, but they had been removed, no chemo required, and we all thought, doctors included, that he was cancer free, so it was a big shock. Two weeks later, he nearly died from a lung embolism during his first round of chemo. It was a lot to process and a very painful time for everyone.
Meanwhile I was finishing my previous series, Locked-in, and exploring new ideas. But everything I tried felt contrived and blah. After a few months, I surrendered - I needed to make work about how my father’s impending death was affecting me. I never considered photographing him, that would have been an invasion of his privacy for starters. But also, his personal story isn’t interesting in itself to anyone but us, his family and loved ones. However, there are universal things that everyone would recognize in our experience - we all know pain, or hope, we all know love... I wanted to highlight the red threads I saw.
In the beginning I was doing self portraits but found that the work looked almost documentary - “look, it’s a picture of Anne-Laure, sad, by the window” - and that was not my intent at all. I asked my daughters if they could stand in for me for a few shots. It worked so much better! It was no longer about the person in the photograph but about the emotion. And I understood then that there was some kind of lineage in the making - he experienced the disease, I processed what I saw and felt, they embodied that, as actresses. So we talked about this all together, my husband, our daughters, also my dad - did we want to make a whole body of work this way? The girls, who normally rarely allow me to photograph them in everyday life, gave a resounding Yes. That’s how Blood Line came to be.
Where do you see this project going?
Qua photography, the project is finished and I will never touch it again. It was a very comforting and healing experience for both my daughters and I to work on this together while my dad was alive. Now that he is dead, there is no more need nor purpose for it.
Blood Line came out in March 2017. Kris Gaves Projects published a monograph the following September. Individual pieces have been exhibited in group shows, for instance at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Houston Center for Photography, and the Center for Fine Art for Photography in Colorado. The whole series was just shown at the Porto Alegre FestFoto Genres in transit: Frontier Photography exhibit, as a projection.
I’m working towards the work being shown solo, and right now I’m talking to a few people who seem interested, so fingers crossed. I’ve recently sent prints that will stay in the US so that it’s easy domestic shipping when working with American curators. I also have several ideas for installations, which I find pretty exciting as it makes me push again my own boundaries within the photographic medium.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
I’m often told “You work hard!”, and maybe that comes from my background. My first “creative job” was doing fundamental research in mathematics. I spent my entire days for months on end trying to figure out one small obscure thing, not even sure it was even possible at first. In hindsight, it was probably a great way to prepare for what it’s like to make Art! After that I managed projects for a few years for a Forbes Top 10 company, then I quit and became a portrait photographer for 8 years in Canada and had my own studio. After our latest move to Holland, I started to make Art. I suppose by then I already had good work habits without a boss to crack the whip. They say “Showing up is half the battle” and I think it’s maybe more like 80% in any creative practice.
Last year, after the series came out, I was still grieving. I tried to create new work, and I failed massively there, for many months. I had moments where self-doubt became crippling. It started to feel pretty awful. But I still showed up in the studio. Every day I tried, even if most days I failed. The problem is I’m pretty cerebral, I like to talk, discuss, dissect and philosophize about anything. That only gets me this far though. I can talk all I want, but for me, for any problem really, the answer actually always lies in “Action”, in doing... And whenever I doubt myself, I think of something my friend David Johnson once wrote me about evaluating your own stuff - that you have to wonder: is it any good, or is it just something I did? That question stays with me, and pushes me further. And when I really don’t get anywhere on any given day, there’s always something else to do, like read a photo magazine. Even doing admin stuff can help. Sometimes I think that our “creative brain” is really just like a muscle - you have to keep using it to make it stronger, but it also needs regular resting periods.
Finally, my indulgence, when I have the time, is to write friends. A lot of people have journaling as part of their artist practice - I write friends. Anything from short whatsapp messages to seriously freakishly long emails... I am just as honest and introspective as I would be writing for myself, and the main advantage is that people talk back! Conversations fuel me, also artistically. I love sharing and exchanging different ideas, thoughts, experiences, learning something new, re-examining what I think I know etc. On a personal level, and on a creative level, it will sound corny, but I feel we’re all better together.
What’s next for you?
Someone in the industry whom I highly respect asked me a few months ago what my professional dreams were - and when I answered, I was told I needed to dream bigger. I tried to imagine what “bigger” could mean, but I still don’t really know.
So “what’s next”, for me right now, is continuing to make new work, and hopefully growing from it, as an artist and as a person. I’ve also been considering doing an MFA for a while, and I just started looking into low residency programs in the US. But maybe I’ll wait some more as I also intend to enjoy to the fullest the very few years my daughters are still at home with us.
Your question in fact made me realize that I don’t project myself too much into the future nowadays. And I don’t really mind not having a detailed and perfect plan, with stretched targets and all... For the first time in my professional life, nothing is gnawing at me, I don’t have the urge to fix or improve anything (though my tax return will disagree with me, but that’s another story!). I just feel like I’m on the right path for me right now, and I trust that feeling. My dad often talked of the importance of truly being in the moment. I understand that more and more.
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Oh dear - so many!! But since you’re based in the US, how about I mention only a handful of non-American friends? So, in order of "geographical closeness" to me:
Congrats on publishing this work as a monograph with Kris Graves Projects last fall! How was your experience making the book and where may interested parties purchase it?
I feel very fortunate to have worked with +KGP for my first monograph - Kris is really awesome. It was a great collaboration, from design to press, and it was pretty easy, especially considering we live continents apart. Blood Line is for the most part mixed-media, and therefore the pictures in the book are reproductions of photographs of my altered prints - which brings more challenges than a straight photography project. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work, and Kris always believed in me. We’re both dedicated people and creative problem solvers - that helps. Within months, we had a book we both were proud of!
I’ve recently seen several print media publishers handle my monograph. It was quite interesting, they pay attention to so many things most people don’t notice. The lofty comments they all made about it, from design to colour rendition and anything in between, were a definite validation of the great job +KGP did. I also just heard that the book was selected for the Photobook Exhibition of APhF:18, the Athens Photo Festival in Greece, so that's pretty awesome! I should add that, as an artist himself, Kris doesn’t believe photographers should have to pay to make a book of their work, and so I didn’t have to raise a small fortune as is so often the case nowadays. Without Kris Graves Projects, this monograph would simply not exist.
If you’d love to get a copy, head over to: