If ever you’ve spent an afternoon in Paris’ Musée Rodin, the mansion in the French capital’s quiet seventh arrondissement which has, since 1919, been dedicated to housing and memorialising the work of Auguste Rodin, you’ll know there’s a preternatural serenity which hangs coolly over it. Photographer Thomas Lohr is well aware of this. After developing an enduring obsession with the marble sculptures on display in the V&A’s world famous collection, he and Daniel Baer, the creative director with whom he produced his last book, Birds, decided to dedicate a new project entirely to the founder of modern sculpture. “I was always fascinated by Rodin,” he tells AnOther, “and on a visit to the museum it instantly became clear that he was the perfect subject for this project.”
Over the course of several weeks, Lohr studied the sculptures on display in the museum until he was able to capture an emlematic fragment of each work’s individual beauty in a single photograph. “I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in the museum when it was closed to the public,” he says, “and I went as often as I could when it was open. There are a lot of visitors during regular opening hours, but I preferred to listen to music and focus on the sculptures; I must have seemed quite obsessed to others, going in so close.” It was a solitary process, even if he was never really alone. “Edwige [who is in charge of editorial and audiovisual production at the museum] and my assistant Tom were always with me. We listened to music and explored every single sculpture, always depending on natural light. It feels like you are constantly being watched by the sculptures when alone in the rooms.”
Rodin was an appropriate subject for Lohr not least for the symmetry between their two practices: during his lifetime, the sculptor’s decision to create pieces which took small fragments of the human anatomy as their subject caused uproar among contemporary audiences, and Lohr, similarly, is fascinated by close-ups. “Details and material studies have been a part of my work for a long time now,” he says. “I first started focusing on interesting crops in my fashion work, trying to create unusual images, but show the quality of the fabrics at the same time. For Rodin the part stands for the whole, so he displayed parts of the body as complete works. It was a similar approach, but being so modern in his ideas, Rodin created a big scandal at the time.”
The result is extraordinary; a book which is singular in its execution, published in a limited run of 500 copies and sumptuously printed. But then, nothing less would pass Lohr and Baer’s exacting standards. “Daniel’s minimalist approach to photography and design is very aligned with my work as a photographer,” Lohr says of their collaboration. “It is the creative exchange of ideas which drives these projects forward – the ongoing search for familiar subjects and objects to look at in in a new and fresh way. Every detail of the project is carefully considered and discussed, from the first idea, to the feel and look of the images, right down to the design and typography of the book. Daniel and I are both obsessed with detail, so there is no surprise that it took us almost a whole month to find the perfect colour green for the cover.”
Rodin, by Thomas Lohr, is available to buy at Claire de Rouen.