I recently spent a week in the South of France, in what is called the Côte d’Azur, or as the English speaking folks say, the French Riviera. Now the image that you have of that place depends, I guess, largely on whether you have been there or not. If you have been there, you picture endless beaches, classy old hotels, good food and wine, grand villas and even grander yachts. And tourists. Loads of tourists. And rows and rows of concrete block hotels that have come to replace the classy old ones…
Now, if you haven’t been there, your picture of the place is likely to be fueled by photos or images from magazines, or indeed movies. If you think Cannes, you probably think of the film festival and its stars and starlets. And all this possibly in black & white, the way glossy magazines like(d) to portray them back when. If you think Nice, you might envision it in technicolor, the way Alfred Hitchcock shot it in “To Catch a Thief” (the movie where famously the female lead, Grace Kelly, met her prince charming, Rainier of Monaco).
Now, before I went there, I made a conscious decision of taking only a Polaroid camera the new Impossible Project film along. I had been to the Côte d’Azur before and knew what to expect. Thus I also realized that shooting polaroids would portray the place in a distinctively retro look – and as such, in a deceptive look. After all, Polaroids are not especielly prone to being used in “Cinema Vérité”, as the French call it….
Of course, if you think that photographs should always tell the truth, this may be anathema. But on the other hand, in this day and age of millions of photos flooding the internet, the truth is out there, in stark unembellished digital photos that tell all sorts of truths. So why not engage in a bit of make-believe. The way Hitchcock did.
Now, looking at the photos, I realize that depending of the film used, this make believe is only partial, or rather, the resulting effects are very dissimilar. Thus, the black and white photos are indeed reminiscent of the 50s or 60s – check out the beach scenes and you know what I mean – these images are indeed from a different time.
However, with the colour photos, the look and feel is totally different. The Impossible Project colour films are very different from the polaroids of once-upon-a-time. They convey less a sense of times gone by, instead they add a sense of abstraction. With the slightly off colours, the somewhat blurred focus, they look like drawings or paintings. And this harks us back to another side of the Côte d’Azur, because indeed this place, full of light and colours, was a preferred painting location for many artists, including people such as Picasso or Cocteau. So while I do not pretend that any of the photos I took rival the work of these artists, I do like to believe that at least the emotions and impressions conveyed in my photos are similar… the joy of sun and light and warm colors…. and a certain sense of mystery.
The photos where taken in four locations: Nice (with its endless beaches and old quarter), Antibes (with its Picasso Museum and old quarter), Cannes (with its old hotels and, yes, old quarter), and my favourite, Menton, on the Italian border, and with a distinctive Italian flair. Enjoy.
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