John Craven — La beauté terrible



John Craven
La beauté terrible

In 13 days: November 5 → December 3, 2020

An introduction to the John Craven investigation

Galerie Berthet Aittouarès has invited Savage Collective to dive into the work and the man, in order to explore Craven’s artistic heritage.


An enigmatic character born in 1912 in Dignes-les-Bains, a self-taught and avid photographer, sometimes art dealer, sometimes curator before his time, Louis Conte, alias John Craven is an extraordinary man, whimsical and mysterious.

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John Craven, La beauté terrible Photography Galerie Berthet-Aittouarès

As early as 1950, at the time of the almighty Oil, John Craven immersed himself in the world of refineries which he compared to cathedrals, first in Dunkirk and then in Lavéra. He would shoot them preferably at night, captivated by the aspect of these industrial sites which became decoys of a starry sky, like visual pollution of the simple contemplation of the sky by man. He painted a striking and personal portrait, often abstract, in which man is nearly insignificant, dressed in an asbestos suit, reduced to the maintenance of oversized, overwhelming machines. Strongly contrasted, these images bear witness in a poetic but uncompromising way of the lovehate relationship the photographer may have felt in the face of this industry, as one can be fascinated by fire while being aware of the damage it can cause.

The set exhibited at the Berthet-Aittouarès gallery, consisting of around forty vintage black and white photographs printed by the artist around 1950, confronts the viewer to world of terrible beauty, as written by Jean Giono, at a time when black gold is in its golden age and has infinite reserves.

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John Craven, La beauté terrible Photography Galerie Berthet-Aittouarès

In addition to the exhibition is an investigation led by Savage Collective in an attempt to tackle the mystery of John Craven. A man in perpetual motion, appreciated by his peers for his total commitment and his daring artistic choices. Savage chose to lead the investigation because it seemed important today to bring forth a new and original reading approach to the work of John Craven, according to his personal history, his artistic and premonitory subject matters, his comprehensive photographic observations on his time.

Savage Collective specializes in the curation of lens based art projects. It’s members are Nathalie Amae, Audrey Bazin, Matthieu Foss, Valérie Fougeirol & Judith Peyrat.

Set of 40 black and white photographs Period prints made by the artist in 1950-1958