September 10th - October 29th 2016

Matt Henry

The Trip

The Trip #18, 2015 © Matt Henry, Courtesy Polka Galerie.

“The Trip” is the first exhibition of English photographer Matt Henry announced by Polka Galerie.

Fascinated by the American politics and culture of the 60’s and 70’s, Matt Henry’s work revolves around the concept of “photographic short stories”: staged photo novels narratives in period costume that portray a dissenting America. Matt Henry’s passion for United Sates started very early on, when watching VHS tapes of American movies to escape the boredom of his small English town. Later came the writers, Steinbeck and Faulkner, and then the TV shows. “The abundance of US media drew me to this culture”.

Between 2007 and 2009, Matt Henry made his first photographic short story entitled “Burial Creek”. Very quickly, he took the measure of the impact of still images: “Cinema cannot create the same level of ambiguity than photo series, with its blank between two shots. My fictions come to life in these blanks, in the space left between me as the narrator and the viewer, who needs to fill them up with his imagination.”

In “The Trip”(2015), exhibited in its entirety at Polka Galerie, the English photographer stages three couples from Southern United States embarking on a psychedelic journey led by the quirky owner of a gas station named Acid James. Inspired by his own life, Matt Henry wanted to show “this parallel and foreign world to our rationality, where the creative process is fueled by altered states of consciousness”.

Yet “The Trip” is not only a psychedelic tale; it is mainly a philosophic journey through which Matt Henry revives the Post-Vietnam war years, when changing yourself was preached as the way to escape the atrocities of the war. Back then, many Americans escaped through drugs, meditation or spirituality, and believed their personal change would impact society. “I knock the belief that a pill can change the world. However there might be some truth to this illusion. After all, what my photographs say with their saturated colors and otherworldly atmosphere, is that illusion might be part of the solution...” 

Alongside The Trip, Polka Galerie will be presenting another series entitled The King (2009). Since his death, Elvis Presley’s charismatic personality remains extremely vivid due to the mass production of ephemeral objects such as mirrors, card decks, newspapers of the day he died, TV recordings, puzzles and so on. This series investigates the nostalgic power of objects, which can bring back not only the artist, but also an entire utopian world around the ideal of a well-behaved, considerate yet strong gentleman. These objects are no longer mere proofs of the life and popularity of the “King”, they express a nostalgia for a simple, conservative and religious life in our more and more intricate world.