Petra Pierrette Berger

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Petra Pierrette Berger
or the art of putting the past in the present

At first sight you think you are in the past, then you seem recognize the present and to finally you let yourself be rocked back and forth in another world: that of the artist.
Petra Pierrette Berger is not only a photographer of great talent; she is above all an artist, a woman who has built her own vision of the world, a unique and inimitable spatio-temporal signature. Equipped only with a simple reflex camera, she strolls in the side streets of the vintage car world evoking its charms and past. A lunch on the grass as immortalized by Renoir, bodywork so expressive that one wishes it would start talking, the scholarly orchestrated ballet of shade and light in movement.

And you will never see Petra lighting her subjects artificially, she passes, she sees and she steals without making a sound at the magic instant that her eye has spotted an image. Or she may wait like a wild cat preparing to leap on its prey. The artist sees what others have forgotten to watch, this is how the paths of art emerge. Shadows, blacks and whites that respond sharply as on a pavement mosaic, then the range of grey that endlessly spreads out long cameos of subtlety like a dialogue finally established between extremes. The light continuously sculpts anew that which man wanted or what nature transmits and Petra Pierrette Berger, like an agile butterfly, seizes from instant to instant the hidden eternity behind the least detail of the present time.

With her a 2CV becomes an art object, which was not obvious to begin with, a Solex moped an icon, and some children in a 4 CV a group of magicians. You should see Petra excited before a subject that pleases her. Her eyes light up and shine through both the lens and the subject to be photographed. And if it is an antique and popular car, a subject that she loves, or a car of great value, there is emotion present, as strong in either case. Petra reconciles extremes, shows fascination there where you would not even go to stroll. The car becomes a pretext, a motive for meeting, a motive for fixing a layer of history in layer of silver oxide film.

In fact, the world doesn't exist in black and white. Monochrome is as distorting and abstract as the brush of a painter with an elaborated technique. Yes, but this medium has passed the test of time, accepted by the most to be messanger of the past, the ambassador of nostalgia. In real life nothing is ever made from the playing of the tones of night and day but we have learned to link this two-tone palette and since its fall from grace it is fashionable to either look for it or to return to it. There will be a new era of black and white, a different way to look at life than from the ascetic and, in the end, bland viewpoint of hyper reality.
There is some of the genius of the Italian movies in Petra's photos, of the realism, a street-smart ambiance, of the love between one another, and the washing still drying at the windows. Petra, without saying anything, opens the magic box of the past to bring out the present and the emotion explodes fully and wholly. You need to know how to search for the present in the past: that is Petra's credo, I really think so!

The artist plays with paradox and this is sufficient to open a breach in reality so that you can begin the long journey of which we all dream, that of the dream and the emotions of our past. Past the defensive wall like Marcel Aymé, the memory's ghosts come to rekindle our tears. I like black and white, Petra's photos, these icons that are familiar to me despite being forgotten. I like to remember that the Solex carried their riders carelessly, the lightness of a bicycle, the total absence of real speed then life was more beautiful, the sun more brilliant than today...and the wind of the north carries them away...goes the song.

Petra Pierrette Berger knows how to set her eagle eye on pre-war single-seaters, the Bugattis and Delahayes etc. She knows how to look at them and to show them both from the human animal viewpoint, and as playing light and falling stars. And finally, so to speak, the machine is never shown without a man, a woman, a couple or children.

The vintage motorcar is constantly monitored and menaced by the risks of classisicm and our only and real chance of survival is to break the yoke of fundamentalism, to like everything from the emotion of a 1936 single-seater Alvis unleashed at full speed on the roads of Normandy to the dated front of a popular postwar, saloon, to look for that which cars have no longer, the discreet charme of an adventure that was not finished, which guided our dreams, the arrow of our destiny.

Petra likes to photograph what we have forgotten how to see, the alliance of the shape and the mind. She has the eyes and the claws of a designer but also the liberty of a bird still free to take itself elsewhere.

As long as there are artists like Petra Pierrette Berger, we will have a chance to think freely and to love our beautiful vintage vehicles as in the age of gold!

SĂ©bastien Dulac,
Automobile historique, Paris, November 2002