One evening, while having his usual walk in New York’s streets, Michael Ackerman’s attention was caught by a removal van. He took square format photographs of the commercial vehicle owned by the company Time (nothing to do with the magazine Time by the way) which in order to advertise its activity had written on its sides “moving and storage”. Nothing out of the ordinary you might say.
Except that by a piece of luck there was no punctuation and these three words joined together give unintentionally, a beautiful definition of what photography is, and is how we view it at VU. A kind of photography obsessed by the questions of time, movement and memory.
A kind of photography which combines, writings of different aesthetic qualities, as long as they have their inner constituency from reportage to still life, from impressionism to the questioning about the documentary function. Photography which, if it strongly claims an alliance between ethics and aesthetics doesn’t aim at reproducing the world but fits in it, with the risk-taking it implies on the physical point of view as well as in the form, in order to question the functionings and most of all the weaknesses and the failures.
It is of course impossible and unfair, 15 years after its creation, to make a just and representative selection of the Agence VU’s collection. Here we didn’t want to gather the best and most famous pictures of VU. With the same well-structured subjectivity which drives the works of photographers, we wanted to question the strange relation with time that photography is able to produce: dispensing to eternity and to memory while taking a minute fragment of time as we experience it.
We simply hope that this selection will provide practical answers to the questions of those who want to know what the use of photography is at the beginning of the third millennium. And we hope it will bring you as much pleasure as matter for thought.
(Christian Caujolle, Director of VU’ l’agence, Paris, December 2001)