Valerie Frossard

Born in 1978 in Geneva, Switzerland. Lives and works in Paris, France


In life, I had formed for myself no image of myself. Why, then, must I see myself in that body there, an inevitable image? […] Supposing, for instance, that I had never seen myself in a mirror? Should I not all the same have had my own thoughts lodged within that stranger’s head there?

Man takes even himself as material, and builds himself like a house. […] We can only know that to which we succeed in giving form. Yet what can there be in the way of knowledge? Can it be that this form is the thing itself? Yes, as much for me as for you, but not for me as it is for you; so true is this that I do not recognize myself in that form which you confer upon me, nor you yourself in that which I confer upon you.

Luigi Pirandello, One, None, and a Hundred-thousand


Photography as I approach it, beyond its ability to document what is, allows us to build meaning. In my work, staging takes precedence over a given reality, like a demand for the right to self-determination. That was the spirit in which “Self-Fictions” emerged. As a project carried out during a CLEA residence (local artistic education project commissioned by the DRAC Ile-de France and the CD93), I proposed to invest the photographic self-portrait from the angle of introspection, without concern for the plastic appearance of a face. How can I make my own portrait without being recognizable? How does masking yourself make it possible to tell your story differently, to reveal your singularity through choices of construction and the symbols employed? Those questions were the starting point for work undertaken in workshops with people who live in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Seine-Saint-Denis 93).


Each participant focused on tinkering their portrait, thinking about what they wanted to convey of their own interiority in order to invent – and create – a way of covering their face. We then made a series of studio images, on a black background, in the style of an ethnographic study, an observational document. Each photograph is accompanied by a short text that provides keys for interpreting the symbolism of the mask.

“Self-fictions” shows how individuals perceive themselves and choose what (or which aspect) to tell about themselves when they are invited to do so. During my residency in Pierrefitte, I looked for a way to truly meet the people who lived in the neighborhood, far from any stereotypes, prejudices, or seemingly established truths. I was interested in giving them a space for them to express their imagination and its creative potential, a space they could project themselves in, a space I could for put ideas and emotional states into images. Strong and touching individualities reveal themselves through these non-traditional masks, which, together, tell a little about our humanity.