Des Arbres is a warning in the form of a tribute to what is to be lost among the most
precious things we have, there, right before our eyes. A gallery of portraits taken in very
large format. A poetic survey to ask us about the fate of our trees, our landscapes,
what is played with low noise in forests as in plains and here at home as elsewhere. A
silent document, an ode and invitation to the slowness, the murmur that embodies the
figure of the tree in the face of acceleration. An invitation to feel the fragility under the
Think like a tree. Like the mountain, the tree remains a monument of our natural and
psychic environment. It is by observing its architecture that we can translate the vital
diaphragm of a tree. Since I was a child I have loved their presence. I keep preciously my
first sketch of a tree, drawn in winter 1981 during a history-geography class. Nothing
exceptional here. Historically, trees have been admired by humans. Venerated and
celebrated, they are willing to lend them powers. I speak to them mentally, as I speak to
the animals, and to the stones, in silence, from presence to presence.
It was in Sudan twenty years ago that I slowed down and took my first photographs of
trees. Then others in Cambodia, Senegal, South Africa and everywhere, without any
ulterior motive or project, without looking for them. The Baobab of Kordofan, the one that
seems to be planted upside down on the steppe, roots towards the sky, rooted for good
the effect of the relationship to time, which had so seduced me in Sudan. Slowness
remains a primary virtue of my mental, physical, psychic, vital space. A Remedy to the
ambient acceleration 2. What can speed be the guarantee of? I still catch myself
sometimes walking fast for no reason.
A first modest and informal corpus of images was thus slowly constituted almost without
my knowledge. A sort of precise and flexible protocol emerged, which projected me
further. The meeting of passionate people sharpened my eye and incited me to cross the
threshold. I equipped myself with a very large format equipment, to reach levels of details
able to restore the impressions of materials, to reach the photographic model
characteristic of the old prints and to envisage restorations with the measurement of the
Every tree deserves a portrait. Without excluding the so-called remarkable trees, I collect
portraits of trees that are both common and singular, whose criteria I would struggle to
define. They are not systematically huge, magnificent, old or strong. They often deviate
from the encyclopedic clich . Each one in its port tells an individual epic, collective and in
the landscape betrays many stigmas of the anthropocene. I am thus fond of the
"Trognes", otherwise called Tadpole Trees, which crown them with our irrepressible hold
In this way, a collection of silhouettes punctuated by rare landscapes, details and leaves is
created which, although nourished, documented and amended by experts, unfolds like an
ode, a tribute rather than a scientific publication.
A tribute to the long time, to the patience, to the maturing from which we silently
contemplate these beings of peaceful appearance. They do not care about our policies
and projects. We pass, they remain, unless they are carried away by our haste. A tribute
then, but one that I want to be dynamic, an invitation to think. Because behind this quiet
curtain, under the bark, other issues are at stake.
The tree that I cut down remains calm. As I search, my accomplices reveal to me the peril in
progress. The disturbances accelerate. The hydric stresses multiply and with shorter and shorter
frequencies. Innumerable trees die alone or in legions.
The one we see will disappear. Its congeners like mine have been warning for decades about
their respective reprieves. The signals are there, for whoever wants to see them, and beyond, in
rural and urban areas and even in the heart of Paris. Global warming, our economy, our policies
and their combined reactions in a chain, too fast to their scale, leave them only a tiny chance of
adaptation, and therefore of survival. Engineers are already planning their replacements, which
although late will tend to limit the deforestation of our territories. Other species or cousins of
the same family, more resistant and experienced in the south for thousands of years to living
conditions similar to those to come, will take over. The species of the Mediterranean basin will
redraw the landscapes of our children, in Limousin as in Morvan. The pubescent oak, more
resistant than its cousins the sessile and the pedunculate, will become common.
The landscapes count their wise men. Their changes are already visible to us, catching up
with the earliest warnings. Many interactions that we can no longer control are now acting here
and now. The tree is a victim of a brutal and radical transformation of its environment. The very
symbol of wisdom, of long time, of maturation undergoes the assault in first line.
The reality is, it does not increase. To represent it one militates it, at best imitates it. The tree
is one thing, its image is another. All that it contains, conveys and shares are totally foreign to it.
The tree does not explain. It gives to think without thinking itself. Like the pyramids, from the
top of their peaks, centuries contemplate us. So let us contemplate the portrait of a tree, if not
the original. To let ourselves be soothed by its calmness despite the storm. To let oneself
contemplate it as a privilege, but on purpose, to experience the extreme fragility of what is to be
lost and to act. Because the pain of the lack always occurs too late.
To combine the form and the content. It is this silent fragility that I try to translate. To make it
apparent in filigrees of the image lure of indestructibility that the tree conveys; to restore it by
extremely fragile prints. To approach this notion of giant with feet of clay, I act by metaphor. The
prints float barely pinned to the wall, as sensitive to the public's behavior as the trees they
represent. A breath would be enough to unhook them. They are not protected, left to our
behavior. The slightest pressure marks the paper and any intervention on the surface of the
image, would alter it with an indelible scar. The prints are exposed to human danger as are the
Papers. The papers, extremely light with apparent fibers with a very marked texture amplifies
the modelinǵ of the photographs. It increases the impression of matter. The tree represented6
seems to merge with it. In addition to their plastic and mechanical particularities, I chose these
papers also for their link with slowness and the hand that thinks and shapes them. These papers
are not manufactured in factories, but by hand by craftsmen. Each sheet is the fruit of the
thought of a particular woman or man. Its elaboration and manufacture refer to the long time, to
the link that these craftsmen maintain with the tree, as much by a reasoned management as by
their application to shape them. I use these same papers to draw with ink, which corresponds to
their traditional use
Charcoal. I usually produce silver prints myself, according to a traditional protocol that has been
elaborated and refined over many years, in order to obtain very wide ranges of gray.
Here, the prints are carbon prints, made in Piezography with Christophe Batifoulier, to remain
on the same demanding line. In addition to its aesthetic qualities to extend my quest for infinite
gray, and its conservation properties, coal, the second largest source of energy in the world after
oil, refers to the origins. Without coming exclusively from wood, they are organic and distant.
Anthracite gave its name to its color, a particular gray, as warm and deep as that produced by
Monumental. A size that commands respect for the original. Although the size of the Grisard
poplar print is still much smaller than the actual tree, it must be much larger than a human. A
monumental print in several layers, almost four meters high, is hanging. We look up. The
photographic original measures 20x25cm. This size of negative gives the print a quality of detail
and modeling that does not fear monumental enlargement. It is still a question, this time on the
same mental scale but in other proportions, of Stopping the gaze and questioning 3.
Anonymous. One does not know anything of what one sees, As all the restitutions, exhibitions
like books, I like to let the public Wander, seek, ask (wonder). Unlike botanical gardens, the
captions do not influence the
the reading of the images and their space of representation. The
imagination is put to work.
1 Laurent Tillon, être un chêne, Actes Sud, 2021
2 Hartmut Rosa, Reméde de l'accélération, Flammarion, Champs essais, 2021
3 Quentin Bajac, Bilad es Sudan, Arrêter le regard et interroger, Ed Xaver Barral, 2017