How can one be a young modern adventurer in 21st-century New Orleans, a world away from the wild American South of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn? How do today’s children play? How do they interact with their environment? How do they live amidst the intense summer heat of Louisiana? And what is it like to grow up in a city that has fallen victim to a succession of natural disasters in recent years? These are some of the questions that Vasantha Yogananthan will sought to answer over the course of summer 2022 as he immerses himself in New Orleans and in the world of a generation born in the wake of the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed part of the city in 2005.
Drawing inspiration from historic photographers such as Helen Levitt and Sergio Larrain, whose work immortalised childhood in all its truths, Vasantha Yogananthan will look to place himself at the level of this younger generation, in an extension of his previous work carried out in close quarters with youth. However, in New Orleans he looked to engage with a new and resolutely urban context. To this end, he took up residency there in a very real fashion, settling in a neighbourhood to get to know its community of young people over the course of their summer holidays and to discover the realities of daily life in a city that is increasingly threatened by climate change.
Born in Grenoble in 1985, Vasantha Yogananthan is the fifth laureate of Immersion, a French-American Photographic Commission. Mentored by Agnès Sire, artistic director of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, he carried out his residency in the United States in the summer of 2022, after an initial postponement due to the pandemic. The following summer, his work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, accompanied by a dedicated publication. From September 2023, his work is shown in the United States alongside that of Gregory Halpern (2018 laureate) and Raymond Meeks (2021 laureate) in a group exhibition dedicated to the Immersion programme at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York.
Since 2014, the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès has supported the creation of new photographic work through this programme of alternating residencies between France and the United States. With its institutional partners in each country, Immersion offers a practical and long-term engagement with the challenges of production and distribution faced by artists today, which are indeed the raison d’être of the Foundation’s “Create” axis.