Lands escapes

- Photographic sketches of a forgotten cartography -
Did you know that France is composed of a set of 450 regions and natural territories subdivided into some 1800 traditional countries? This complex, multiple, rich mosaic of territories and countries precedes the departments of 1790 (French revolution) and denotes an ancient and luxuriant past. It is these entities that truly account for the extraordinary geographical, but especially historical, cultural, human and social richness of France.
Celts, Iberians, Merovingians, Visigoths and other Gallo-Romans have bequeathed us territories whose names still resonate, even though they have no meaning today. These historical territories were completed by others, less civilized than legal (jugeries, provostships); religious (bishoprics, dioceses, etc.); feudal (counties, baronies, etc.), but all of them refer us to a forgotten history.
In addition, there are the natural territories, more or less shaped by man, with names and dimensions dictated by the relief, vegetation, geology, agricultural or viticultural activities.
Our ancestors used to use the name of their traditional country and thus marked their differences, their singularity. Their belonging to a traditional country, whose definition can be summarized as a territory of limited extent and located less than a day's walk from a place of exchange and trade (market hall, fair, market) created both pride and identity.
Beauce, Béarn, Brie, Pédaguès, Pays de Caux, Pays des Garrigues, Terres Froides, Quercorb ...
This heritage is not well known and only needs to be revived. In these troubled times, the notions of time and distance weigh heavily, so the rediscovery of the nearby heritage becomes essential. But more fundamentally: "... Paradoxically, it is when "countries" disappear or wither away, erased by our modern, normalizing and standardized civilization, that they appear as entities that are more and more claimed. The contemporary man jostled and disoriented by a liberal economy which involves uprooting, urban concentrations, rural desertifications, seeks a significant, familiar space, where he feels at ease, is known and recognized. (Myriam Louhala-Souchon, Le pays de Montélimar provencal ou dauphinois, éditions Hispamont).
A few years ago, I started to list these natural and traditional countries as I travelled and to illustrate them with photographic landscapes. My intention is to capture beautiful landscapes in each of these places, not to reveal the absolute identity of the illustrated country but to evoke it, to give it life. These images are composed essentially of natural elements, free or ordered by man; sometimes of a few buildings; but above all of rhythm and light.
"It is the artist's love of nature that makes it a work of art by unifying the scattered elements of the sensible world and elevating them to a higher level of reality; in landscapes, this principle of unity and love is light." (Kenneth Clark, The Art of Landscape, Arléa Editions.)
With this in mind, and because photography etymologically means writing with light, I seek out landscapes in which light and sky have an extremely strong presence. This work of art follows in the footsteps of 19th-century landscape painters, from Turner to the Impressionists, from the Barbizon School; who for the first time, went to the landscape, painted in situ and sought to capture the light on the fly to better transcribe it.