Photographs and visual cultures of the imaginary

As a purveyor of allegorical or mythological imagery, Photography has quickly become a privileged mode of expression for creating a link between the symbolic and the real. It captures the collective imaginations rooted in the oldest myths or beliefs in the most futuristic worlds (rites, legends, utopias, scientific imagery, urban fantasies, UFOs, science fiction, etc.).

Omnipresent in both our popular and scholarly imagery, these representations contribute to our awareness of the present time; some even question their participation in the social and scientific construction of reality.

Between visual culture, visual anthropology, social sciences, current affairs politics and art history, we can grasp the way in which Photography triggers or reactivates shared narratives, as well as how it unearths or creates collective imaginations from all sides.

The research and creation projects of the laureates below will take into account the different aspects of the creation of photographs and visual cultures of the imaginary.

The laureates


True Faith

True Faith is a research on the phenomenon of apparitions of religious images in Italy, a country in which two thirds of the cases of apparitions recorded in the world occur. Through newspaper archives, I locate this “invisible geography”, I go to the places of the apparitions, I ask the inhabitants to tell me where the apparition took place and to tell me what they see. In collaboration with a socio-anthropologist, I collect all these testimonies. The photographic image thus becomes proof of something unprovable, a document of something that will always remain invisible to me.

After training in Archaeology at the University of Florence, Ezio D’Agostino studied photography at the Scuola Romana di Fotografia in Rome. His artistic approach is the result of his training as an archaeologist: he focuses on the historical and cultural stratification of the landscape, inviting the viewer to reflect on the construction systems of contemporary society and its imaginations. He lives in Marseille.

Find the artist’s work on his website and Instagram profile


Photographer: male name? A profession at the source of imaginations

While the gender stereotypes conveyed by visual culture have been repeatedly denounced, the question of their origin is often overlooked. This project aims to highlight the power relations that determine images, from their production to their reception. In particular, it studies the gendered hierarchies within the photographic professions. By analysing various objects (periodicals, photographs, films, etc.), it also examines the joint construction of social and visual norms. Finally, at the intersection of research and mediation, between historical heritage and contemporary issues, he questions the issues of image pedagogy through the question of the formation of the gaze and its gendered, social and political implications.

Véra Léon is the author of a doctoral thesis in educational sciences entitled “One is not born a photographer, one becomes one”. With a dual background in history at the ENS de Lyon and in photography and contemporary art at the University of Paris 8, she has been teaching at the University of Paris since 2015. She conducts research on the history of artistic training, and on gender in the photographic world.

Find the artist’s work on his Instagram profile

De Beyter

The Skeptics

The Skeptics is a long-term research based on an amateur practice derived from ufology, the scientific ufology. The project brings together films, photographs and objects and is divided into four chapters (the first two were exhibited at the Prix découverte des Rencontres d’Arles, 2019). The support of the Institute will enable the next two to be carried out: R.O.T.G. (Relics Of Technological Goddess), a photographic survey of the iconographic collections of the French associations of this science of appearance (including the Groupe ufologique du Nord); and Magical Places, a series of photographs requiring staging processes, experimentation on negatives, or 3D integration, in order to exploit, like sets, the landscapes of the Canary Islands or certain specific American sites.

David De Beyter, a former student artist from Le Fresnoy, lives and works in Tourcoing. His approach to photography, both conceptual and documentary, is mainly based on landscape practices in relation to the different statuses of the image. His work Big Bangers has been selected for the prestigious FOAM Talent exhibition between Amsterdam, Paris, New York, London and Frankfurt, and is the subject of several publications by RVB Books, including Damaged Inc. in 2018.

Find the artist’s work on his website and Instagram profile


Tame the abyss? Photography, speleology and underground imaginations

While aerial photography and its impact on the perception and representation of our environment has been the subject of research, underground photography remains an unthought. Under the banner of vertical exploration, it is nevertheless based on the same desire to discover and share new perspectives on the world by testing the standards of photographic practice. Based on the study of the activities of Édouard-Alfred Martel (1859-1938), an ardent promoter of modern speleology, this research project aims to understand how, with what intentions, according to what modalities and with what effects photography has reconfigured the visual culture of the imaginary underground world, from the theories of the Hollow Earth to representations of the mining universe, since the end of the 19th century.

Born in Lille in 1980, Laureline Meizel holds a doctorate in Art History from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Since 2006, she has been conducting research on the relationships between photography and publishing in the 19th and 20th centuries, in which her publications and teaching at the university and at the EHESS are involved. In this capacity, she was notably awarded the Roland Barthes Prize in 2008 and is currently a member of the editorial board of the journal Photographica.