Denis Canguilhem by Pierre Apraxine
Denis Canguilhem, 2011 © Yan Morvan
Vroom, vroom, vroom… a motorbike starts in the Parisian night. Wearing his helmet and aviator’s outfit, Denis Canguilhem (just about 40) is leaving a restaurant in the center of town. He has enjoyed a typical French meal of kidneys and andouillette with his friends. They talked about soccer. He is a faithful supporter of his seldom victorious local Strasbourg team. He loves this sport that he once played as a semi-professional. He is on his way to the 20th arrondisement where he lives with his 7-year-old son.
Denis Canguilhem studied photography and its history. He has written articles and catalogs, curated several exhibitions, has worked for a daily newspaper and has been a photography dealer. He is currently the director of the photographic agency he founded. Highly respected in the field of historic photography, he is rumored to have been offered prestigious positions, he has disdained. Honest, at times bordering on the naïve, at once unflinching yet flexible, intuitive yet awkward when necessary, charming and carefree, he is difficult to read. Is he a researcher tied to the institutions who has infiltrated the world of commerce or is he a dealer with privileged access to the cultural nomenclatura. Between commercial ventures and cultural institutions, one must apparently choose: their ethics diverge. Gallery owners wonder with worry, whose side is he on? Denis Canguilhem refuses to be pigeonholed, he will not be labeled, and enjoys his freedom. Photography alone is his passion.
A free-floating electron, Canguilhem is nevertheless consistent when it comes to research; his bibliography testifies to this. Whether it be through his work on scientific photography (2004) or his collaboration on exhibitions featuring photography and astronomy (Orsay 2000) or on photography and the occult (Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Metropolitan Museum, 2004-2005, he has chosen to patrol front lines of the photographic medium with the discerning objectivity of a scientist and the sensitivity of a poet. With a father from Auvergne and his mother from Brittany, he boasts a blend of earthy realism with a calling to unexplored worlds. Camille Flammarion, the great astronomer, author of science fiction books and investigator of the occult remains his favorite type of scientist.
As for his business ventures, he is very discreet. Mystery becomes him. Canguilhem lives in symbiosis with the underground currents which irrigate "la France des images" carrying the post cards and masterpieces towards the institutional shores of great collections. He enjoys guiding his selections to the sunny locations they deserve. He has no desire for personal recognition. He is happy to play the hidden role of anonymous “purveyor,” relieved of the constraints advertising a business. He wants to be left alone and free, he is ready to fiercely fight for this freedom. He prefers to confront the world onhis own terms. His favorite writer is Thomas Bernhard
Vroom vroom… the little motorbike carrying so much curiosity, observations, enthusiasm and catalogs disappears into the night. The outfit of the rider is now definitely that of an astronaut. Two antennas grow out of his helmet. Denis Canguilhem is returning to Mars.