Signs of the forest


A photographic study of the forest as

an exterior frontier


A few years ago, the result of a poll found in the press, has intrigued me. One of the questions was as follow :

« Come night time, in which of these two spots would you be most fearful ? in town or in a forest ?

The near sum total of answers pointed to the forest. It was demonstrated with

statistics that one was in greater danger at night in a town.

Why this fear ? What strange links bind us to the forest ? These questions kept me thinking for a long time.



An outer border


The question of our ambiguous relationship to the forest is the original reason for this photographic work. I have tried to picture it feelings this particular spot inspires us with, also trying to seek reasons why the forest is still now in the 21st century charged with symbols and mystery.

The forest is a world apart which, according to Robert Harrison, sets « an outer divide between the human and the non-human ». This particular frontier gives to civilisation its mark and « without these exterior regions there are no interior homes to live in ».

Our emotions when faced with the present deforestation and the burning forests can be linked to the hidden fear of seeing these frontiers disappear and with them our notion of human habitat.

In this context, the virgin forest can be the most significant, a place where we can imagine a prehistoric state idealised as a lost paradise.



An archaic memory


This idea of an archaic memory can be linked to the theory of Yves Coppens according to which, after the disappearance of the oriental African forest eight million years ago, apes had to adapt to the savannah by standing up on their back legs in order to become pre-human.

From that moment when man becomes sedentary and lays the foundation of civilisation, his relationship to the forest will develop and become ambivalent.

The forest will be perceived in turn as protective or dangerous, as a place of enchantment or perdition, of meditation or folly.

From antiquity onwards, it becomes a strong source of myths, of tales and legends, from the sacred forest of Dodone in Greece to the terrifying universe of Gallic beliefs, to the enchanted forest of Broceliande. It becomes a refuge for those who wish to remain out of the society of man : hermits, mystics, saints, persecuted, damned peoples, outlaws or heroes.



The disenchanted forest


Gradually invested in Western Europe it will be of essential importance in the middle ages a great period of land clearing and unpredicted soaring demography. The deforestation will go on for centuries… Henceforward the surviving forest will no longer be untouchable but will be dominated and administated by man.

Has the forest now become disenchanted ? Reduced to be a place for walking, or at worst a timber mill. Can it still be a venue for fantastic adventures ? Can man still perpetuate his relation to the world ?

During this photographic study I wanted to rediscover this « outside frontier » and give it my own vision. My wish was not to show exotic or remarkable places, rather to work on ordinary forest, close to us, and try to « sacrilize » the anonymity community of trees.