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We talk to the Director of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Catherine Tsekenis, about the organization’s focus on photography and recent exhibition of work by Doug Dubois, in partnership with the Aperture Foundation in New York.
WHITEWALL: From the beginning, photography has been a key focus for the Fondation d’enterprise Hermès. Why is that?
CATHERINE TSEKENIS: Yes, so the foundation has been built with a strong relationship with the Hermès culture, and photography is very important for the brand. And you can notice Hermès works with very talented photographers for its advertising campaigns. The Hermès magazine always displays photos dedicated to photographers. And one of our previous CEOs was Jean-Louis Dumas, who was a photographer himself. He opened a gallery at the top floor at the Madison Avenue store in New York. So when the foundation was created in 2008, it made sense to focus on photography.
WW: And was there a specific kind of photography you were interested in?
CT: It’s very important for us to support contemporary photographers because it’s very important to support the younger generation. It’s very interesting—we like to mix new and vintage.
WW: In 2013 the foundation began a relationship with the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation with a prize that is awarded biannually. How did that partnership come about?
CT: It’s a very nice story. Henri Cartier-Bresson launched this award in 1988 with the help of the Centre National de Photographie in Paris. It was very important to help the young generation of talented photographers promote photography as a “real art.” The prize stopped for a few years and started again in 2003 when the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation opened in Paris. In 2012 Martine Franck, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s wife and the president of the foundation, looked for a new partner for the award. We met her with Pierre-Alexis Dumas and it was like love at first sight. Martin Francke was also a very talented photographer and a very intelligent and elegant woman. We share the same values, in terms of patronage and giving the opportunity for the photographer.
WW: You’ve been the director of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès since 2008. Has the goal or the focus of the foundation evolved since?
CT: The foundation nourishes Hermès’s value, so the foundation is close to the Hermès core of activity promoting transformation and the foundation embraced existing patronage and additionally created its own programs. We extended our range of action in 2013. Our mission expanded to the promotion of craftsmanship in photography in the U.S. by the commitment in the fields of creativity and biodiversity.
WW: This spring you partnered with the Aperture Foundation in New York for an exhibition of work by Doug DuBois, “In Good Time” [March 24 to May 19]. It is a survey of his work, so how did you go about choosing which series would best represent his career to date?
CT: We are displaying an artist’s vision and his life work into in this through 51 photographs, in three series: “All the Days and Nights,” “Avella,” and “My Last Day at Seventeen.” Doug DuBois likes to look at everyday life in the middle class and sometimes lower class. The role of community and how we live together is very important to him.
WW: How do you see the collaboration with the Aperture Foundation continuing going forward?
CT: It’s a very important collaboration for the foundation, and we started a big project, called “Immersion.” It is a French-American exchange program. It will be very interesting to observe the results of the crossing between French vision of the U.S. and the American vision of France for chosen photographers. It was important for the foundation to create a program in the field of photography with the idea of residency and to give the opportunity of creating new work and a challenge to explore a new way of creating.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s summer 2016 Design Issue.