Elsa & Johanna : « Climbing into another skin »Mai Mano House in Budapest


Elsa & Johanna’s first exhibition in Hungary will run from 26 January to 18 March 2024 at Mai Mano House in Budapest. They will be presenting Climbing into another skin, a selection of their three latest photographic series.

Two familiar faces, a multitude of characters and stories. Reality, fiction, beauty, sadness, identity, nostalgia, memory and solitude stand out in the work of French photographers Elsa Parra and Johanna Benaïnous, who have been collaborating together since 2014. They take on the roles of models, stylists, set designers and photographers in carefully orchestrated scenes, embodying the characters in their stories that fuse invented and real elements. Their work is both sensitive and meticulous, exploring geographical, social and cultural environments through the prism of photography.
“We are like sponges, absorbing the landscapes, people and atmosphere around us. When pressed, we release a colourful liquid that reflects our society.
Their creative approach, at the crossroads of photography and theatre, makes staging and narrative central elements. Each shot is the fruit of meticulous observation and rigorous preparation. The girls slip into their roles for hours, even days, immersing themselves in the environment and inner world of fictional characters, often inspired by their own experiences or those of others. The final photographs bear witness to this complex creative process, demanding total commitment.
Using autofiction, Elsa and Johanna’s works create singular visual universes, evoking the films of Alfred Hitchcock or David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks.
This exhibition, featuring a selection from three of the duo’s series, invites visitors to discover their different worlds. The images in Beyond the Shadows, taken in Calgary, Canada, seem to come from a film about the melancholy lives of suburban women.
“The Timeless Story of Moormerland” uses the aesthetic of family photo albums to tell a story about memory, intimacy, the individual and self-representation, in several small towns in northern Germany.
The highlight of the exhibition is the duo’s latest project, an exploration of female identity through the hidden emotions of the characters. Inspired by a book found in an attic, an 1893 manual on the education of young girls, deemed both instructive and comic, the works, imbued with nostalgia, explore the diversity of identity in domestic and personal space, revealing the plurality of characters in a personality and the potential for individual freedom.
Elsa and Johanna’s universe reflects a collective portrait of youth, offering a journey through time to a dimension that is both non-existent and familiar.
The duo have exhibited in a number of venues in recent years, including the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in 2022. Their work can be found in private and public collections and has been shown at leading festivals, winning several awards and nominations. They have published three books to date, and this exhibition draws on the content presented in these works.
The curator is Anna Kereszty.

Find out more about MaiManoHouse.fr


Climbing into another skin
26 January – 18 March 2024

Mai Manó House – The Hungarian House of Photographers
Nagymező u.20
1065 Budapest, Hungary.

Opening hours
from Tuesday to Sunday, from 12pm to 19pm