What does happen when you go home again? There are usually the lingering memories of youth, but how do these memories mesh with the realities of the present day? In Geographie Intime (English translation: Intimate Geography), Camille Hervouet, who now lives in Nantes, returns to explore and investigate the geography of Vendee, the area in which she was a child and young adult. Hervouet states that in working on this photographic project, she had “the urge to explore deeper into the idea of home, of living in a territory”.
To chose for her subject a personal region, that of her childhood, can be either fraught with emotional danger or perhaps bring immense personal pleasure. A place that has strong emotional ties will no doubt, perhaps at a very subliminal level, lead to a stronger autobiographical narrative. It can be argued that all photographs are really about the photographer, with the sleight of hand illusion that what is in front of the lens might be the subject. Thus it can be said that all photographs are autobiographical, but some are more autobiographical than others.
Hervouet continues in her introduction to state her intent “to capture the way the landscape and the building talk about those who inhabit them, to see how they revel the structure, working pattern, the development as well as the contradictions of the territory…its intimate and collective history.” I find that Hervoutet elegantly lays out her conceptual foundation for this photography project and equally important, then delivers on it.
The photographs are without captions, but from her introduction, I suspect that the portraits of individuals are those who she knows personally, probably family, neighbors and friends. She has a shared history and memory with them.
Her landscape and portrait photographs appear to start in the hills and upper elevations of Vendee and as her photobook progress, we steady approach a seacoast. The final photograph in this series, which is spanning a two page spread and printed full bleed, provides a great expansive body of troubled water. Is this dark and turbulent seacoast symbolic of her emotional condition after this exploration? Has the emotional ride of this project left in troubled turmoil, much as the troubled, overcast and dark sea? The dark sea, much like memory, can be cold, dark and deep, hiding rocks and fissures, concealing wonders and dangers alike.
But yet there is one last small color photograph hiding behind the final Remerciements, much like providing a last kiss after taking a brief pause at the end of a long conversation, a beautiful evening seascape. It could be easily missed, but lingers after the conclusion and for me implies that there is still is hope, perhaps a hope that Hervouet still has, even if troubling memories come tumbling down upon her
The book is printed in four-color, with stiff covers and stitched binding. The text is in French, and with my copy, I received an English translation insert.
By Douglas Stockdale