First of all, thank you Arthur, for the very friendly and graphic introduction.
On this Blog I will deal with the Atlantikwall from different and hopefully surprising perspectives. As I also try to do in the muddy fields and sandy beaches, or in the dusty archives surrounded by funny smelling paper. I always try to look beyond the 150, 200, 350 or even 1000 centimeters of concrete that holds almost 70 years of dark history.
Of course the Atlantikwall contains much stories people don’t notice or take for granted. And I guess because of this it also has such a big attraction on architects, artists, photographers and even philosophers. We all find it very hard not wanting to know, see or think more about what bunkers meant in the past and will become in the future. So blogging on a regular bases should be a piece of cake…
I’ll start off with a very special book.
‘Forteresses Du Dérisoire’ by French photographer ‘Jean-Claude Gautrand’
Gautrand (1932) took his photographs between 1973 and 1976 along the French Atlantic and Mediterranean Coast. All in black and white, using a technique that gives the images a very hard contrast, but also strange soft focus. Because of this the images are futuristic, but for us very familiar at the same time. Perhaps these effects are caused by a cheap lens and expensive high contrast film. Who knows..(?) They are stunning anyway and feel very real. Unlike most manipulated digital photographs of bunkers nowadays, which I sometimes just can’t bear to be honest…
Comparing Gautrand’s images to the work of Paul Virilio and his book ‘Bunker Archeology’, with photographs taken between 1958 and 1965 (but not published until 1976) is inevitable. But the difference between the two is very significant. Virilio, ‘the philosopher’ keeps his distance and shows bunkers as they are, without a too obvious photographic expression, while his writing gives bunkers the extra dimensions and perspectives 2D photographs just sometimes can’t offer. This way you can use Virilio’s thoughts when you get confronted with bunkers yourself. Gautrand on the other hand gives you a thought on the subject that seems to appear best on a photographic print. But well, in the end that’s what photography is all about.
Tip! At the moment three books are available on Amazon in France; http://www.amazon.fr/Forteresse-d%C3%A9risoire-Gautrand/dp/2858890161
Underneath are some examples, straight out of the book;
As an extra also an original letter from Tim-Life journalist Maria Vencenza Aloisi I found in my book. Apparently the book I bought was purchased by Time Life at the presentation of the book in Paris in April 1977, where it was signed by Jean-Claude, posted to the U.S.A. and eventually stored in the library of Time-Life Magazine, before ending up on Amazon.com where I bought it two years ago.
© Jean-Claude Gautrand