Alexis Cordesse


At the age of 20, Alexis travelled to Iraq where he took his first photographs, which were published in the UK in The Independent Magazine. He carried on working for the press for several years as a photo-reporter, in France and abroad (Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Bosnia, etc). His work on Somalia led to his first exhibition, in 1992, at the Visa pour l'Image festival in Perpignan, France. In 1995, he was selected to participate to the first World Press Masterclass.

In the late 90's, in search of new forms, he went away from the practice of photojournalism and return to such places as Rwanda or Palestine with other plastic requirements. He started using new medias and supports, as the cinema or the installation and created a new distance and a new duration, without establishing the one or the other one in aesthetic standard. His artistic research feeds on a critical reflection on the responsibility of the images and the ethics of the testimony.

Among other, he composed a trilogy about the genocide against the Tutsi that occurred in Rwanda: Itsembatsemba (1996), Confession (2004), Absences (2013).

His work has been shown at the Dokumenta XI (Kassel, 2002), at the ICP (New York, 2003), during the Month of Photography (Paris, 2010). It is also held in many permanent collections, including the French National Library, the French National Art Collection of Contemporary Art, the Nicephore Niepce Museum, the Neuflize Vie collection. He was awarded Lucien & Rodolf Herve Prize in 2010 and Arcimboldo Prize in 2011.

Public collections

French National Library, French National Art Collection of Contemporary Art, Nicéphore Niépce Museum, Neuflize Vie collection, Swiss Life Foundation



The genocide in Rwanda occurred in an atmosphere of general indifference.

On April 6, 1994, President Juvénal Habyarimana was assassinated and the remaining political authority immediately put into effect an extermination plan designed to eliminate both opposition to the political regime in power and all the Tutsis in Rwanda. In less than 100 days, the military, militias, and civilians murdered between 800,000 to a million people.  Then, the genocidaires forced   2.5 million Hutus–a great many of whom had participated in the murders to flee to the borders.

Former photo reporter, Alexis Cordesse went to Rwanda for the first time in 1996, two years after the genocide, and in the hills questioned the survivors, noted the signs of emptiness and absence, and the traumatic sequels of the aftermath.

Before the unimaginable, he realized that he had to rethink his approach by questioning the failure of images to inform.  From then on, he returned regularly to Rwanda and dedicated several bodies of work to the evocation of these events.   His approach connects photographs, archival documents, and witness accounts. Alexis Cordesse's way of working is far from a moralizing discourse on mass crime, the suffering victims, the inhumanity of the executioner.  Rather it is an inquiry on the power of images to speak out uniquely and by themselves about the essence of what happened.

His approach also invites the viewer to reflect on the crime rather than to contemplate the image. 




Border Lines is a documentary project layouts thanks to the digital technologies. Realized from photos taken in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories, the images testify of the fragmentation of a territory, criss-crossed by tangible and invisible frontiers. Omnipresent, they determine spaces and people in this region of the world, stage for permanent news, wherein the slightest turbulence engages the values of East and West. Everything is separation and saturation. Using photography in its composite form, these photographs are assemblies. They maintain with the reality an utopian and descriptive relationship.

I choose places characterized by the concrete and symbolic constructions of public spaces which seek to align themselves with identity, relations and history. I decide on a point of view and I take, over time (from a few minutes to more than an hour), photographs of these spaces and of the people therein. Then, with my computer, I organize  these photographs as a panorama, by adding or subtracting  fragments of images in a more or less perceptible way. Border Lines is serie that borrowes from the street scene and landscape genres. The reconstructed spaces and actions function, therefore, according to their proper temporality. Everything is true and yet false.

Alexis Cordesse



In the summertime, the pool of the suburban town of Châtillon–Malakoff, located just outside and to the south of Paris, is one of the biggest draws of any swimming pool in the Paris area. The Olympic-sized outdoor pool and its surrounding lawns attract up to 2,500 people daily. Some come to swim, others to cool off, while yet others set out picnic spreads, flirt or doze off. The crowd is remarkably varied – socially, culturally and in terms of age group. This broad human spectrum was what initially inspired this project.

In July 2003, I set up an outdoor studio near the pool to take portraits of anonymous persons in swimsuits. There is nothing natural, neither than truth in these portraits. These photographs are the product of a long and often arduous exchange between me and the model: make self-sacrifice to make public his image. Embody, by the photographic representation, the singular presence to the world of each, while celebrating his beauty.

Malakoff - Châtillon, France, 2003.