“Beware, O voyager, the road travels as well.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
The Normandy Coast, with its craggy coastline and medieval fishing villages, has long captured the interest of artists. Its seascapes are featured in the work of Impressionist masters Monet, Manet, and Boudin. Many pioneering photographers, such as Gustave Le Gray and Henri Le Secq, worked in the region prior to or at the same time as the early Impressionists, starting around 1850. Iconic scenes and motifs appear in both the photographs and the paintings of the period.
Although it might appear static to passers-by, a landscape is alive. It is the intersection of environment and humanity, the space where we experience the emotions associated with living, as a collective and as an individual. In the words of Raphaëlle Stopin, we and the landscape “weave together a story line mixing the real and the symbolic, the cultural and the natural, the objective and the subjective.”
Impression of Normandy was developed in 2014 in collaboration with the Centre Photographique of Rouen. As part of an ongoing project, the institute established a residency where a selection of photographers would focus on landscapes of the Normandy region.
Over a two-year period, Normandy revealed her everyday treasures: local fêtes, parades, memorial ceremonies, and the simple leisure activities that anchor a person to their surroundings. Amidst this haze of movement and life the photograph is a tranquil reminder of a shared moment between man and environment that has now passed. The subjects of these images are unaware of the camera lens that roams to and fro, seeking out human interactions with the landscape that range from the most aware, in an autumnal depiction of wild boar hunting in La Londe, to the most casual, of a group enjoying an evening barbecue on a small section of Senneville Beach, and the drama of the natural structure of Normandy’s coastline, at the The Needle of Etretat.
The almost panoramic vista of the photographs creates a strong sense of space between the lens, the landscape, and the subject populating it. The simplest activity, a game of catch in the cool, natural waters of an outdoors leisure park, is revealed to have the same majestic status as the most serious of landscape portraits. In the physical space of these images there is an inquisitive, yet reverential, tone that displays the joyful diversity of living happening with, and in, Normandy’s landscapes.