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Home » Hélène Mauri – humanity in her photographic mission

Hélène Mauri – humanity in her photographic mission

Hélène Mauri (Photo Vinciane Lacroix CC-BY-SA)

Hélène Mauri is a photographer. Color or black and white? It depends, she doesn’t rationalize; color, technique, the same fight: so well mastered, integrated, digested, that they both take a back seat, in the service of creation, invisible to the conscious of the photographer guided by her mission.

A collection of postcards

On the left, an award-winning photo taken by Hélène and a friend; on the right, several images of photographers that inspired her as a teenager (Cartier-Bresson and Doisneau).

Above, an award-winning photo taken by Hélène and a friend, when she was teenager. When, at that time, she began to take photographs, her idea was to complete her collection of black and white images, initiated at the age of 11-12 and until then mainly made up of postcards by great photographers (Doisneau, Ronis, Cartier-Bresson, etc.).

Her conception of photography was then essentially black and white and will remain so until a changeover occurs. Was it the influence of photographers like Ernst Haas or Saul Leiter, or later, following an exchange with Stéphane Asseline?

Still, today, color seems to her to be an obvious choice for landscape photography, which she is particularly fond of.

Nurse, a vocation

Hélène Mauri is a nurse. Nursing is not a profession, it’s a way of being. She listens, totally disinterested, in the gift of self for the care of others. As a teenager she decided that this would be her way. She had such a noble idea of this profession that as soon as she got out of high school, immersed very quickly in the hospital reality required by the nurse training, she anticipated a burn out on the horizon of her 35th birthday. She thus decided to train for another profession for fear of destroying this ideal. She will nevertheless complete the studies of her first choice, she will even be hired as a nurse before completing them, and, despite her lack of specific training in photography, she will invest herself in the application to Louis Lumière, a prestigious school of photography recruiting its students on a competitive basis.

However, some friends, teachers and students she met at open days, and even the one who had introduced her to silver photography (himself a former student of this school), felt that these studies would be too technically oriented, and therefore probably too rigorous and demanding for her, who was essentially perceived as an artist.

It was not enough to know Hélène well. Even the bitter failure of her first participation in the competition did not discourage her! On the contrary, the following year, she redoubled her efforts, immersing herself in photography books, spending all her time visiting exhibitions, learning about all the issues addressed in the previous competitions, while continuing to work as a nurse during the week. She succeeded brilliantly in this second attempt.

Home decoration to stimulate the eye

Training as a photographer

Her studies will be a succession of challenges and battles to be won. More mature than the other students, Hélène knows what she wants, and fights to achieve the work she has in mind. The project “Vanishing points”, collaboration with Pierre Vedovato, a student from the sound school section, was born — a contemplative project that takes us to the four corners of the world, a rendezvous with ourselves and with the beauty of the landscapes. It is difficult to get such a work accepted at the Louis Lumière school where sometimes “pretty” is not enough and where often “the nature of the subject” must be more explicit.

Fascinated by “the photographic mission of the DATAR “, a government commissioned work with a dozen photographers to represent the French landscapes of the 80s, Hélène decided to address the notion of photographic commission in her final dissertation, taking as much interest in the method as in the role of the commissioner.

Books by great artists to train the eye.

If there was only one picture

This is where germinated the idea of the project “If there was only one picture”, linking her two jobs. Struck by the cold and depersonalized side of hospital rooms, by the closed aspect of the place, Hélène wanted to bring a little warmth, a window on the world, through a photo.

The patient will be the sponsor, she will be the photographer. She would act as a mediator between the hospital room and the world to which the patient would no longer have access, and would bring him back “the photograph”, the one he misses, that will do him good, a photograph that will perhaps speak more about him than a portrait…

Even when you are able-bodied, a beautiful view is a joy to behold.

This project was scheduled to start in 2013. Some patients had an explicit request regarding color. For Gisèle suffering from cancer, red represents life, blood. When we dress in red, we bring cheerfulness. She asked Hélène for a vast field of poppies, her representation of life. As for Isabelle, she considers green to be calming, she thus commissioned a photograph where she could imagine herself lying on the grass, contemplating both the sky and the trees.

The project “If there was only one picture” is now a book (© Gilles Berquet)

Today Helen is very happy with the publication of the book tracing the project that she has been doing for years.

Color in photography

Hélène combines color with light, revealing a multitude of nuances. The changing light on the Scottish landscape, these clouds projecting moving shadows creating an infinite variety of greens, was a great discovery for her.

Maps and travel guides: essential tools for traveling.

For Hélène, in her job as a photographer, the important thing is to be as close as possible to reality, and color is no exception to this rule. If conditions do not allow it, she will choose black and white. No faking, no post-processing that is not at the service of this requirement: to give an account of this reality as she perceived it at the place where the picture was taken.

The future?

Hélène divides her time between her job as a temporary nurse and her photographic projects. She would like to extend her commissions to other people confronted with a closed universe, such as that of retirement homes or children with cancer.

Hélène Mauri’s different sites: and

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