Tony Maniaty is back with another photographic exhibition, Amour Toujours, this time with photos of Paris, the city of lights viewed through the lens of love. We spoke to Tony a few months ago ahead of his Our Hearts are still open exhibition. Amour Toujours is another exhibition of Paris photographs currently on show in Sydney. Due to close last week, the Alliance Française de Sydney has extended The Amour Toujours exhibition until the end of March. Read our interview with Tony below to find out more.
Bonjour Tony, we spoke a few months ago as you were preparing to launch an exhibition and book of photos taken during COVID lockdowns in Paris, named “Our Hearts Are Still Open”. This time you’ve got an exhibition at the Alliance Française de Sydney called “Amour Toujours”. Please tell us a little about this exhibition.
To mark Valentine’s Day, and also to escape the endless COVID news cycle, the Alliance asked if I would do something along the lines of ‘France and romance’. I explained that I didn’t have images of lovers kissing on the Pont-Neuf, that’s not quite my photographic style, so they were happy to let me interpret the theme as I wanted. I explored my passion for France itself, especially for the city of Paris and the people who live there, and the love they share for Paris too.
Are the photos in this exhibition from pre-COVID times or are they some of the same photos that formed part of your previous exhibition but viewed within the lens of love?
About half the images in the Alliance show were in the previous exhibition, those less focused on the pandemic obviously, and the other half are new. There are 18 photographs in total, all reflect the idea of love, passion and romance in French settings. One of the great joys (and frustrations) of staging an exhibition is choosing what to put in and what to leave out, and also the sequencing across the gallery wall, making sure the images complement each other while at the same time creating a narrative flow. You can’t really tell until you get the images in situ, then the juggling begins until you get it right. Often you begin with one set of ideas and end up with something completely different!
You’ve said that you have tried to capture the French love of life through your images. How did you set out to do that?
Capturing joy is one of the hardest of photographic assignments. Real joy is spontaneous, so you’re literally dealing with fractions of a second, it’s there and then it’s gone. There are a couple of images in the show where that happens, and to me they’re very special. The boy and little dog in the Palais Royal is one. Photographing people enjoying themselves is considerably easier, that lasts much longer. And then there are situations which make me happy, because they reflect the love I have for France; they can be as simple as a statue in the Musée Rodin of lovers embracing, an unusual angle on the Eiffel Tower, or the painting of a naked lady outside a bar in Paris. These are all in the show too. They’re often small things, special moments, but collectively they add up to the deep feelings I have for France.
How does French life differ to Australian life?
There are two, contractionary answers to that: a lot, and not much at all. If we take French life to mean the lives of people in suburban France, beyond the centres of cities, I would say it’s much the same as Australia: people love their homes and gardens, their weekends, the barbeque and the beach. But within the big cities – Paris, especially – the difference is substantial. The energy levels of these cities is much higher, and a creative buzz is always there. The French place great importance on style, manners, and details; Australians are far more casual, not only in the way they dress but in their manners and behaviour generally. They have a more easy-going, ‘live and let live’ approach to life; the French are more opinionated, more ‘political’ in how they live from day to day. In that sense I’m probably more French than Australian!
What’s your favourite part of French life?
The importance placed on culture. No matter where you live in France, or whether young or old, rich or poor, culture plays a central role in your life. It’s there in the food and the fashion, in the music, the design of the world around you, and of course in the arts themselves – in literature and cinema, painting and theatre. It’s also there in the cafes of France, as places not only to eat and drink but to exchange ideas, debate issues, engage with others, and study the world going by.
What’s your favourite place in Paris?
Am I allowed three? ‘Favourite places’ change, but three that are always with me are the Musée d’Orsay, for the sheer number of great paintings it contains (including my favourite, Van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Doctor Gachet’); the kitchen supply store of E. Dehellerin near Les Halles, where the copper saucepans seem to date from the 19th century; and the Luxembourg Gardens, a haven of peace in a city that’s bustling. I lived near the Gardens for three years, and went there regularly: the crunching of gravel underfoot is the moment I know I’m back in Paris, my favourite city on earth.
On the subject of love, do you have a favourite romantic place in Paris?
The Place de Vosges is special, filled with trees and history that goes back centuries; it’s in the centre of Paris yet is seems elsewhere, a private setting for a rendezvous. Even if you’re not having a romantic assignation, it’s a place where you sense love could blossom and always will. Of course there are many such places in Paris, you can simply choose one and make it your own.
How long is the exhibition going for, and are photos available for purchase?
The exhibition was due to finish at the end of February, but has been extended to the end of March. It’s best to check the Alliance Française de Sydney website for times. The photographs are available framed or unframed, and you can see the entire show online and also purchase the prints at my website www.studiotettix.com There are many others images there too from my French portfolio and, if you like black-and-white especially, it’s Francophile heaven!
Is the exhibition book from “Our Hearts are Still Open” still available for purchase? If so, how?
Yes, it’s still available at the website www.studiotettix.com. The limited-edition book has 64 monochrome images printed on fine art paper and makes a wonderful gift for lovers of Paris and France.
We thank Tony Maniaty for this interview.
KEY INFO FOR AMOUR TOUJOURS
WHAT: Amour Toujours, a photographic exhibitions of photos by Tony Maniaty
WHERE: Alliance Française de Sydney
WHEN: Extended until the end of March. The exhibition is open during the reception opening hours of the Alliance Française de Sydney:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,
9:30am – 12:30pm
1:30pm – 5:00pm
HOW: Attend the Alliance Française de Sydney during the opening hours above
HOW MUCH: Free
What’s your favourite place in Paris?