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PARADISE / Hawaii 2016-2017

In 2016 I arrive for a first stay on the Hawaiian archipelago, the last American State to have joined the Union, the only one to be separated from the continent. By going to the far far west of America, I nourish the visual fresco called American narratives which gathers my series carried out in the United States. Anchored in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, more than one hundred and thirty islands form the state of Hawaii. The majesty of the landscapes, united with the Aloha spirit, has earned the archipelago the name of Paradise. The Aloha spirit is the basis of island life. It celebrates life and nature, family and the bond between communities. Hawaiians cherish their islands, are concerned about preserving them as they face environmental and cultural challenges. I discover the crossroads of the origins of the people of Hawaii, a legacy of migratory waves coming first from Asia, then from the West. I also observe another America, stripped of the codes that have forged its documentary tradition. An America naked and deprived of its familiar landmarks, inviting to think that by erasing itself thus, it allows Paradise to exist.

Ronan Guillou (photographs taken on the island of Oahu)

In Paradis, Ronan Guillou addresses the theme of the Hawaiian islands and questions the insularity that, as poet Edward Glissant reminds us, is a matrix for the ‘poetics of relation’ and a possible new humanism. This ‘archipelagic’ wealth and its corresponding photographic dialectic is reflected in the different tensions within Ronan Guillou’ works: between black and white, and colour that suggests a representation in the process of being formed; between documentary images and others derived from sometimes infinite, almost abstract, details; between portraits and landscapes, both sublime and ordinary, interacting like a series of questions; between the end of Eden and the ongoing, youthful urge to live.


Ronan Guillou’s photographs distill a singular atmosphere whereby the harshness of reality is softened in its photographic revelation and the poetry it writes. With an admirable ability to twist the surface of normality and hint at some remaining mystery in the dejà-vu, the photographer projects us into a form of marvelous realism whose fleeting and unexpected images disturb the baroque myth of the tropical paradise. His work does not simply interpret and represent the island and its geography, for the narrative is illuminated by the shining presence of its inhabitants. The deliberately fragmented and erratic association of these images is sensual and fluid.

Héloïse Conésa

Curator for contemporary photography, Bibliothèque nationale de France

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