In Far West, Charles-Henry Bédué captures the light and shade of LA and Las Vegas

When the French photographer journeyed west from Las Vegas to LA, he had no idea just how much the landscape around him would quickly change.

27 April 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

For the last six months, Charles-Henry Bédué has journeyed between Las Vegas and LA, capturing the mood of the people in the two sprawling cities. With a mix of reportage and documentary, while creating the ensuing series Far West, the photographer basked in the feeling of the moment and indulged in the fleeting zeitgeist of his geographical location, before snapping them both in an intense flash. The French photographer first made his way over to Las Vegas in October of last year, spending five weeks amongst its bright lights before venturing to LA, a trip he initially undertook as part of a separate project altogether.

In Las Vegas, he was struck by the performing artists occupying the city’s stages. Admiringly, he noted their perseverance to pursue their dreams. He vividly remembers how the performers were “possessed by passion in whatever they do,” in turn, reminding him of children playing and filled with energy. He decided to embody this feeling and make a photography series with this energy in mind.

“The theme is about the symbol of life,” he tells It’s Nice That on the evocative series. Embodying this creative energy, he soaked up his surroundings through photography, paying particular attention to the minutiae of body language or the choice of an individual’s clothing. For Charles-Henry, the spectacles around him personified the feeling of America. “I was overwhelmed,” the photographer continues, “sometimes to the point of disgust by this mad creative energy.”

GalleryCharles-Henry Bédué: Far West

On one hand, he lavished in this documentation of America, but on the other, he was taken by the hyper-consumerism of it all. “The human tide that constantly overwhelmed the city was choking me,” he remembers, “something was wrong.” It was a swaying feeling that continued to haunt Charles-Henry all the way to LA; where he has lived and worked ever since. There, he found the same inspirational subjects, and a similar “mad creative energy was palpable.” He was in the middle of photographically exploring this feeling, however, when the Covid-19 crisis hit, and everything changed for the series.

“At this point,” he explains, “the overheated société du spectacle stopped, but the show of life continued.” Under lockdown, when he managed to get out, the scenes had changed: the streets were empty and the usual buzz that he had come to know and expect on the west coast, was totally shaken up. He recalls how now, the most prominent parts of the street are the homeless, the fisherman by the sea, “and the sun that sublimates every particle of my surroundings.”

For Charles-Henry, this sudden change in the landscape was a poignant symbol. “Though everyone is talking about death, he never stopped lurking. Some had just forgotten it or didn’t want to see it. Just like violence and misery, the whole dark side of life,” asserts the photographer. Whenever he took a photo in the deserted streets, the photos peaked with a different energy, capturing those who have no choice but to be resilient. “The dark side and the bright side of life have equal value in my eyes,” Charles-Henry finally goes on to say. “I have one eye wide open for each side. We can’t enjoy the sun without the shadows it creates.”

GalleryCharles-Henry Bédué: Far West

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

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