Denis Dailleux’s name is associated with the art of portraiture. He is also associated with the Arab world, having lived for many years in Cairo and photographed all its labyrinths. Denis Dailleux is a man open to encounters and dialogue. It was while taking a Corail train in the 1980s that he came across a group of boys from Persan-Beaumont, a deprived commune in the Val-d’Oise. Curious about everything and everyone else, Denis Dailleux invited himself into their town some time later, with the idea of photographing these young French boys of North African origin. But he very quickly came up against postures and self-staging that seemed all too eagerly awaited. It was then that he turned his lens towards the little brothers and sisters whose naturalness escaped stereotypes, and that these delicate portraits of children were born, which we feel are less a documentary strategy than a gesture towards each other.
For five years, one Sunday a month, Denis Dailleux travelled to Persan-Beaumont to find these little ones, but also, and perhaps just as much, to reconnect with his part of childhood. Framing little ones growing up in a city with limited prospects is a challenge. He took up the challenge by tightening the set so as to linger only on the small bodies, pushing the hard material of the walls back into the darkness. He has made an ally of the dim lights that cross the backyards, stairwells, nooks and crannies and he has brought these children out of the shadows, freeing them from the shackles of inhospitable architecture. These black and white photographs, born of a secret chemistry, transfigure the bond between the photographer and his models. They also recast the relationship of these children to their prison-like environment. Above all, they testify to Denis Dailleux’s ability to divert the images from the suburbs to reintroduce grace and innocence.