Date
24 May 2021
Reading Time
5 minute read
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Maxime Guyon’s latest project takes a fascinating – and beautiful – look at the aeronautics industry

Produced between 2017-2020 on several visits to major European aeroplane manufacturers and other key players in the industry, Aircraft: The New Anatomy comments on the constant need for progression in tech.

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Date
24 May 2021
Reading Time
5 minute read

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Chasing the advancement of technology is what drives photographer Maxime Guyon’s practice. From cars to watches, perfume bottles, robots, trainers and even the humble toothbrush – a personal favourite of ours – no well-designed object is safe from Maxime’s particular practice. It’s a singular avenue of still life photography that he’s been working at for nearly a decade now, and during that time he’s come to define a certain aesthetic; one of precision, sheen and an appreciation for tech.

Maxime’s most recent project, recently released by Lars Müller Publishers, is titled Aircraft: The New Anatomy and, as the title suggests, takes his fascination with technological progress to a whole new scale. Released during what the book describes as “a turning point in the history of the aeronautic era”, the project charts Maxime’s visits to major European aeroplane manufacturers, documenting the evolution of the industry while also thematically exploring the constant need for, and expectation of, evolution within tech.

GalleryMaxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

GalleryMaxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

The project began in 2017, just after Maxime released Toothbrushes with Same Paper. “I was quite willing to start a whole new project based on a bigger technological species,” Maxime explains of how Aircraft: The New Anatomy is a continuation of his previous research in the field. On why he chose to turn his camera on the aeronautical industry in particular, he says: “We are definitely living through a particular change in the aircraft industry, especially with the awareness of the environmental impact of aviation but also more recently with the economic airline recession due to the global coronavirus outbreak. These events are and will drastically change the method of production but also our perception regarding this sector.”

On a purely aesthetic level, Maxime also has “an interest in visually observing the evolution of the shapes and design of aircrafts”, and this is often the fundamental premise of his work. Throughout his portfolio, Maxime draws our eyes to the ingenuity and craft of technological objects, no matter how big or small, by spotlighting details of their configuration. In turn, he celebrates the “form follows function” principle and the post-industrial aesthetics that dictate, and are borne from, the objects of our daily lives.

“I am fascinated by images and compositions, I think a detail can suggest far more than a wide and literal portrait of a subject,” Maxime tells It’s Nice That. “Moreover, these intense accumulations of details that these aircraft technologies undergo are the witness of a spectacular concretisation.” The latter refers to an essay that features at the back of Aircraft: The New Anatomy, written by Nicolas Nova. Broadly, it denotes the idea that incredible feats of engineering – like aircraft – are the amalgamation of several smaller yet equally incredible feats. What Maxime does is highlight that fact, heralding gratitude to the coalescence of technology that makes aeronautics possible.

Above

Maxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

Above

Maxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

There is also an aspect of the project that aims to challenge the conventions of photography, pulling focus to the fact that the medium itself is a technological process. “The aviation industry is in my opinion quite linked to the conventions of photography,” Maxime remarks. “The medium of photography is a technological species, which is constantly evolving in the same way that high technologies (for example aircraft, robotics, etc…) are, as well as technological commodities (for example toothbrushes) and keeps its initial conceptual meaning.” It becomes clear that Maxime’s fascination with tech is wrapped up in every part of his process, from his conceptual approach to the subjects he chooses and the very equipment in his kit. “All of my projects are aligned on the same visual research based on technological evolution in a larger sense,” he continues. “I’m as much fascinated by a complex turbo-hybrid Formula One engine as I am by a five-blade razor. Putting them on the same level for me is something that intrigues me a lot. Whatever the scale is, these technologies will undergo numerous adaptations.”

Aircraft: The New Anatomy therefore should be considered among Maxime’s wider body of work. In the context of images of toothbrushes and lipsticks, what Maxime appears to be doing is making a broad statement about the mastery behind tech, in every sense of the word. He pushes us to understand the innovation that goes into creating even the smallest screw, for example, while also marvelling at the sheer grandeur of an aircraft.

This levelling of the playing field, as it were, is also furthered by Maxime’s strictly consistent approach to photographing. “I like to challenge the visual representations of technologies but also the norms of photographic outcomes,” he tells us, achieved by employing the norms of commercial photography in a more artistic setting. In turn, discourse related to the “desirability of high-end technology” is imbued within his work.

Ultimately, the project also comments on how technology and nature have evolved in tandem, even positing that discussing one in isolation from the other or as distinct entities is erroneous. This concept is often referred to as “third nature”. He explains: “In my opinion, technology is actually part of nature. Saying that technology is replicating nature is a bit abstract and too human-centred. Humans are part of nature and so too are technological species.” Aircraft: The New Anatomy can therefore be seen as a documentation of natural selection. Maxime photographs parts of the Concorde, for example, from which many of today’s aeroplanes descend. It’s something Nicolas also alludes to in his essay when he discusses the work of Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, colleagues who proposed development to Darwinism in 1972 and who had earlier drawn comparisons between the stints of evolution apparent in fossils and in that of the cornet, a wind instrument. Nicolas also references the work of British writer Samuel Butler who, in 1863, referred to machines as a “mechanical kingdom”.

Above

Maxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

GalleryMaxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

Reflecting on the work though, Maxime is undeterred if those who view the work fail to take in its full scope, instead hoping that “this book is accessible enough for everyone to enjoy the visual essay. I don’t want to insist that much on the conceptual level, but rather on the curiosity that these images can offer. And if by any chance someone wants to understand deeper my conceptual interests, I hope they will find out more about it in Nicolas Nova’s essay.” An appreciation of Aircraft: The New Anatomy on a purely aesthetic level is certainly easy – the book is a beautiful object and Maxime’s images cut through its pages with clarity and allure. Whether you’re interested in tech or not, it’s hard to ignore the astounding might of the depicted objects. And that is a credit to Maxime’s remarkable perception as a photographer.

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Maxime Guyon: Aircraft: The New Anatomy, published by Lars Müller Publishers (Copyright © Maxime Guyon, 2021)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

rbd@itsnicethat.com

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