Until August 25, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (European House of Photography ed.) hosts the images of the American photographer Henry Wessel, on the occasion of the exhibition Dark Thread. A getaway to the Far West.

Deserts as far as the eye can see, imposing canyons, gas stations in the middle of nowhere… The American West does not cease to fascinate. It was this iconic charm that led Henry Wessel to travel across this vast territory in 1969. Touched by the blinding light of Los Angeles, he tried to convey it in his pictures. It was with his 35mm Leida camera that he transformed the banality of the American daily life into a brilliant spectacle. All of his pictures make the imaginary go wild, forming a silent film in which each image evokes a scene. In order to select the pictures that would form the best intrigue, the artist would put his contact sheets on the side for a year. A process that allowed him more objectivity.

A touch of humor and irony

The first exhibited series, Incidents, transports the visitor into a story-board made up of 27 works. His adventures form a map of the West, from Wyoming, to California, passing through Colorado and Nevada. Behind his lens, the strangers passing by would never think that their daily life would become one of Henry Wessel’s many subjects. Attentive to details, the latter always adds a touch of humor and irony to his scenes. With his second series, Sunset Park, he shares his nocturnal wanderings in a suburban area of Santa Monica, California. The spectator is then immersed in a dramatic atmosphere where the only light comes from the houses. And it was during the selection of images for the third series, Dark Thread, with the MEP’s team, that Henry Wessel passed away in September 2018. His exhibited work, a project supplemented with stories, forms a tribute to this storyteller that leaves behind him a mark in the world of photography.

© Henry Wessel; courtesy Pace/ MacGill Gallery, New York