A medieval setting in Savoy
I am familiar with Lartigue’s photographs of the first flying machines, of motorcars and of the fashionable beauties on their promenade in the Bois de Boulogne. His testimony of the Belle Epoque appeals to a wide audience. As an archivist and a historian I consider it to be a partial and subjective view of a complex period. However, I am nevertheless drawn to his insightful perception and impressed by his ability to capture movement. So when FACIM Foundation director Marine Leloup showed me the Lartigue winter scene series, I was thrilled by the idea of a two-fold aspect to the exhibit that Lartigue would have probably also enjoyed. Visitors can thus get a glimpse of snow during the hot summer months and reflect on somewhat forgotten winter sports and activities overshadowed by today’s modern ski resorts.
The exhibit was to be setup in the “Grange batelière”, an impressive 300 m2 medieval structure part of the Hautecombe Cistercian abbey. Many visitors come to admire its stark beauty. Furthermore, the Cistercians meant for the architecture’s proportions and Spartan atmosphere to naturally inspire introspection. Bulky dividers or picture rails were simply not suited for such a place. Our scenographer, Alexandre Bénard, from the Newaru agency in Chambéry, came up with supple wood structures that call to mind a streamlined boat hull similar to those on the lake nearby, and that elegantly fit in beneath the colossal barn vault. The entire room is visible from each end and yet visitors have a sense of the separate themes : pleasure on ice in the first circle, snow and skiing in the second one, and friendship and landscapes along the perimeter.
The scenography for photography exhibits traditionally tends to be discreet, almost invisible. Ours is quite the opposite. The “behind the scene” is out in the open and rightly so. Yet Monsieur Lartigue must not fret, he has the upper hand. The setting is just right for an intimate, merry and somehow wistful exchange between the beholder and the photographer to take place.
Heritage Chief Curator