At the start, there were images in colour, rather austere, undeniably mineral, frontal and rigorous, and in two formats for which the sober frames, in wood, had been most carefully chosen. No superfluous commentary, but evidence of certain decisions, just as implacable as that to head off to Peru, there to fix matter, finding the right distance and without mannerism, to approach stone in what it has that is most elementary, and at the moment when geology and human construction come together to the point of blending into each other. The matter of the stone as on the first day and in the manner of the untouched being approached out of the pure need to confront it, while still holding back any lyricism. Not that this excludes the presence of emotion, even though the precision holds it back to the point of risking, sometimes, its evacuation.

Upon finishing, two weeks later, there are still two formats, still precise choices, and still the will for rigor and absence of patter. But there is the feeling, spectacular in its way that is not, that something has shifted, and perhaps been liberated. It is as though Faustine, having had this time of freedom with no return due other than the possibility of trying, has let go of something in herself that she had never allowed to show through.

There is, still, the temptation to stay frontal, but she shifts even up to the view from overhead. There is still the will to confront what is elemental, but this time, it was water, the environment obliging. And water could never be other than forever changing, while the photographer seeks to capture its reflection (as almost a mirror) or make of it a black background (night-time attempt). There is still this rejection of chattiness, which leads in the end to few images being proposed then selected, even if some amusing moments of posing, with collaboration from other participants of the residency, had contributed to brightening up the shooting procedure.

For, whereas the Peruvian landscapes had been void of any human presence, those from the aquatic marshland region around Niort give place to people. It is a change that nonetheless avoids any anecdote beyond the enigmas to which it gives rise. Through the pose of a young man become an apparition on the bank, or by the strange position of the body of a swimmer, from which we cannot tell whether he is sinking into or emerging from the water, whether he is suffering, or indeed whether he is actually alive. Such are questions cast into the water more than answers, in fact. It is almost impossible to discern in the background of one landscape, the body of a man, from behind, hanging onto the bank, unless he is about to let go of it because he has lost his footing. This is finally of no importance since what we are left with is above all the image of the expanse of water hemmed in by the leaves, which in turn filter the light, causing shimmers of shadow, yet managing to avoid both the “foliage approach”, whether of the demonstrative or contemplative sort, and, although sometimes coming very close, the lyricism that the element has so often nourished.

The most striking change, naturally, is that of the passage – by choice – to black and white. But this becomes a colour when the greys of the surface on which the body seems almost to float shift in unending waves and can catch deep blacks and a point of pure, and rare, white. There was no place for chance while the subject was mineral and was confronted with a temporality that seemed less prone to erosion (how long between that of the geological layer, that of the assemblage of stone by man, and today in the images?) than the framed landscape. A place is found for chance, albeit controlled by choice, as soon as the water is flowing, the sun is filtered through the leaves, and the person is liable to show expression, whether bodily or facial.

Faustine still asks us to take our time, to place ourselves in front of her images and really to look at them. And to examine, as she herself does. She is certainly still as wary of the facile aspects of lyricism, of the risk of romanticising that tempts all those who approach the very closest parts of nature and she keeps her distance, the right distance, just as required. But perhaps with less fear, with this other sensuality, more obvious no doubt, which comes closer to the way water flows over the skin than to the roughness of grains of granite on the vegetal epidermis.

Christian Caujolle