> Stuart I. Frolick

Michel Kirch: Flights of Imagination

The images of Michel Kirch have graced these pages before, and for good reason. The internationally recognized, exhibited, published, and collected artist continues to combine photographic seeing, imagination, and technology in unique bodies of original work.

Perhaps more closely allied to Surrealist movement than to traditional photography, Kirch’s black-and-white prints are portals into dynamic realms of memory, dream, fantasy, and
hallucination. His singular creative process begins with “straight” black and white photographs that stir Kirch’s fertile imagination, and suggest visual elements that, when combined and composed, digitally, result in narratives and environments animated through dramatic shifts in scale and other-worldly perspectives.

Each image is carefully designed; each of their details considered, until a cohesive narrative emerges in Kirch’s mind’s eye. Then, he works to reduce the storytelling to a minimum, leaving plenty of room for diverse interpretation. Once the main action has been realized, his design guides our eyes to it, and lets the story breathe in high contrast. Kirch’s composition in each of the four images reproduced here, begins with a square that frames a circle. In two of the pictures,
the center portions are framed by open doorways that lead us to his “Promised Land.” Of his use of these basic shapes, Kirch, in a November, 2021 writes, “All natural forms have meanings: protection, efficiency, balance of opposing forces, etc...A circle is a cell, a planet, as well as a symbol of infinity. The constant challenge, for me, is to express infinity in a limited space. The door symbolizes choice; to preserve and protect our limits, or to transcend the physical and embark upon a spiritual adventure.” In « Des Fleurs pour l’avenir », Hanoi,Vietnam, Kirch placed
images of his two daughters (“my flowers and my future”) standing on floating lily pads; in « Entre deux mondes », Sanary, France, a woman seated on a swing suspended from a cloudy sky, moves in three exposures over a vast body of water. In « La main qui frappe est aussi la main qui sauve », Reykjavik, Iceland, Kirch writes, “The symbolism is that the future is in our hands; we can save the last polar bears, but to do so we must act. I put light in the hand-held piece of ice to
express this hope...” In an apocalyptic vision, « Subduction », Reykjavik, nature’s power, represented by a thunderous waterfall, drowns a man-made cityscape in miniature.

Kirch was born in Metz, France in 1959, and raised in a religious family that surrounded him with art. His mother was a lyrical soprano; his father, a rabbi and poet.

Kirch became an accomplished musician, a doctor, and a well-traveled spiritual seeker and practitioner, all before devoting full time to family and image-making.
His exhibition and awards history is lengthy, and his work has been eloquently described by writers and critics anxious to embrace and enjoy his exploration of photography’s outer limits.

Camera and computer are Kirch’s primary tools. “We are exploring a field other than classical photography,” he writes. “Material reality has always seemed subjective to me. Even before I began my digital experimentations, I always tried to find something more’ than the simple reality in the frame of my viewer. I don’t try to reproduce what an objective eye may see, but to express my own interior landscapes. That’s why here in France I am considered a ‘photographe plasticien.’ With digital tools there are no limits to my imagination; I became an artist that uses photography as a basic material, like stone for a sculptor, or oil for a painter...but the particularity of photography retains its connection to reality, which we can still feel in the final print.”

Kirch’s images present philosophical puzzles; contributions to conversations ranging from visual imagination, space and time; abstraction, presence and absence, history, and art. Of his influences, Kirch writes: “I have spent my life trying to find my own singularity. 

 

Stuart I. Frolick

Photographer, writer and journalist