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For La théorie de l’échec, French photographer Elodie Bambi Tann documents the clandestine world of young adult nightlife, cutting through the haze of drunkenness, sex, and ennui to reveal moments of tenderness spent in darkened alleyways, kitchens, and old, abandoned structures throughout Le Havre, London, Berlin, Rouen, and Paris.

Tann has no use for glamorous and seductive imagery; instead, she explains, she searches for significance in chaos, pulling beauty from what might otherwise be repulsive. Her use of the flash imbues each frame with an sense of urgency and immediacy, leaving her subjects naked and defenseless against her gaze.

Despite the brutality of Tann’s imagery, each picture is born from an unspoken trust. She photographs mostly her friends, who have come to take for granted the presence of the camera in their nighttime shenanigans. She credits her own shyness with the fact that she rarely shoots strangers, and when asked whether her companions are performing at all, she says that no, each scene is candid and real. Many took place in her former home, which she shared with a group of boys. Others are at other people’s house parties, where she admits that most everyone was too intoxicated to take note of the camera.

Tann’s images exist at the border of adolescence and adulthood, chronicling the confusion and angst that inevitably comes with growing up. La théorie de l’échec is a story of failure and redemption, of momentary, fugitive friendships forged within a well of loneliness. Though her work pushes at the boundaries of familiarity and intimacy, Tann never intrudes upon the confidence of her subjects. Sometimes, she says, a moment emerges that is just too raw and private for her to capture on camera, referring to these unrecorded instants “small pearls [that] do not belong to [her].”

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All images © Elodie Bambi Tann

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