The colour of air
23/09 - 31/10/2015

En français - NL versie


David Huguenin, 26.8.11, 40 x 50 cm

Notes on a series of photographs.
“Where it would be a question of a vacuum, of dawn and dusk”

In 1995, when I was still a student, I used to spend entire nights wandering through a maze of cranes along the wharves of the port at Sète. I remember a ship called Terpsichore (the muse of dance and mother of the sirens), an enormous cargo vessel whose black prow rocked gently in the dry dock.

In the daytime, I explored the coastal area around the docks at Thau. I was looking, through the jumble of buildings, machines, and abandoned things(unusual places, strewn with the carcasses of old boats, pallets and piles of rotting oysters and mussels), for clues to help me understand how this landscape was laid out, what its structure was. This made me think about the vernacular dimensions of this summary architecture, sometimes arranged around salvaged materials, partially plastered walls and often rudimentary buildings, which nevertheless appeared to relate to some previous, planned use. I would run into oyster-farmers, fishermen and others.

These landscapes were the height of anti-tourism, crossed by ephemeral paths, appearing crude, but bordered and inhabited by the proximity of the sea, and they continued to fascinate me.

A few years later (between 2000 and 2002), I revisited these places, but this time using colour. Once again, I found those strange structures there and I made a catalogue of them. I renewed old contacts and noted the arrival and installation of a new young worker, and the death of an old eccentric. This might seem banal, because this is how things happen everywhere else in the world, in cities as well as in the countryside, down to the tiniest detail. Before dawn and after dusk, these streets and squares are deserted. In the daytime, they are filled with febrile activity and comings-and-goings, and yet people rarely meet here. For there are only workers here, no children, no postmen, no bicycles, but only, which spiced up my reconnaissance visits and my taking of photos, a large number of more-or-less stray dogs, including some beautiful big specimens. I was annoyed, sometimes worried, but I finally had to admit that real life is made up of these minor details. Like an ethnologist on a field trip,
I took no time to replace my old catalogue of cabins by a new list of red dots on the map of places where it would not be a good idea to venture unprepared.

In 2009, after several years of not having taken photos using the “silver” process (I had switched to using digital processes), I still cherished the idea of going back to those places, not knowing what I would be able to produce there, but certain that something was likely to happen. Once again, my approach was a slow protocol, thanks to my use of a photographic darkroom. I conscientiously consulted my archives and, beyond all the series of photos which I could have extracted from them,
I noticed that one detail kept coming back insistently in the images I found most interesting.
This dimension is linked to the quality of the light and its direct consequences on the things it illuminates. And it is more this fine, immaterial side which I analysed, rather than the characteristics or choice of subjects, the composition or the framing of the shot. So I had worked in vain when I had looked for something that could have served as a thread, for nothing else could have existed before renewing the concrete experience of the act and the place. Throughout almost fifteen years, I had noticed on many occasions the unique quality of the light a few moments before dawn and, in counterpoint, at dusk, which was all the more striking when the memory of the morning was still fresh in my mind. It is difficult to put this reality into words, as it is made not of before or after, but of the present and presence. To sum up, I identified something relevant in the dimension of time, obviously objective, but that’s it. (…)

David Huguenin, 2015

Translation: Chris Bourne

David Huguenin Website