Photographing the postwar period has become a genre in itself. Representing traces of conflict, a topos known as English Aftermath Photography. The subject of Antoine Cardi is very clear: the Battle of Normandy from June to September 1944, one of the major episodes of the Second World War. Still, 1944 Paysages | Dommages escapes categorization. In these images, of war there is nothing to see.
At least for the uninformed observer: no grandiose views of the landing beaches, for example. Only an inhabitant with the memory still solidly anchored or a specialized historian will be able to decrypt at first sight the deep sense of these photographs.There is, however, a lot to watch. No fighting traces. Cities are of poor urbanism. Many neighborhoods were razed during the fighting and rebuilt in the post-war emergency. Only churches – whether rebuilt or “miraculously” escaped – mark an inscription in time. In the countryside, landscapes sometimes very beautiful, often banal.
Antoine Cardi’s photographs are frontal, rigorously done.They could be linked to the New Topographics or to the DATAR Mission. To evoke the school of Düsseldorf would be too easy. We guess that the author has never put his tripod randomly and has always chosen his framing. The Italian format of the book allows to scrutinize every detail. Here, banal shop signs or 4×3 posters saying “You are here in the heart of Normandy!” There, in a suburban area, a wall of fence whose blocks were not plastered. Clichés, like humans, are absolutely absent from1944 Paysages | Dommages. Everything is a detail in this work but their accumulation itself is a line of force. The famous Carmel of Lisieux is thus indicated only by a simple road sign.
Where then do the warlike traces reside? In the glossy legends by their pithy precision: “Night of June 6th to 7th. Lisieux (Calvados). A bombing of the Royal Air Force shaves the city center. 700 dead. “July 25th. Beach of Deauville (Calvados). 6 Resisters are tortured and shot in front of the sea.” ” 26 July. Near Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte (Manche). A young woman is raped and killed by American soldiers.”
Linking texts worthy of a press agency with contemporary images to apparently banal subjects highlights the inanity of the dogma of “It has been” forcefully rejects the most reflective part of the contemporary practices of the photographic medium .
What has been? Antoine Cardi went to such a place and carefully represented what was in front of him. But he made that strong choice of knowing that photography, years away, is incapable of rendering “directly”. As in any work today that thinks of the image, Cardi demonstrates his inability to be a language or even a proof while warning the watchful observer of the multiple levels of meaning that a “simple” photograph can take.
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