A Photography, A story: "Ceux qui restent"

Those who stay
"Remains of a ghost town in California" Etienne Perrone

Interview Etienne Perrone

ArtPhotoLimited: Where did you take this photograph?

Etienne Perrone: This photograph was taken in a ghost village in California called Bodie. It is one of the last vestiges of the villages born of the rue towards the gold. After a gigantic fire in 1932, only a few houses remain in a city that was, at the height of its activity, the second city in California with 10,000 inhabitants and 65 saloons: a true city of the Farwest with its crimes And its violence. The Reverend Warrington spoke of it as follows: "A sea of ​​sin, beaten by storms of lust and passion." In any case the atmosphere is now absolutely magical and very strange. Everything has been preserved. You can almost hear the piano of the saloon resound in the main street. This leap in the past to something almost mystical.

Tell us in what context this photo was taken?

A friend and I were driving north to find a passage to the west as a snow storm had blocked the entrance to Yosemite Park. We had heard about Bodie but bad weather was pushing me to give up visiting (the village is still 2500m above sea level). Luckily, my friend insisted a little and we sank into the long dirt road that leads there. It was raining heavily and very cold. But when we finally arrived on the spot, the sun suddenly came out and mingled with the big gray and heavy clouds that gives this atmosphere so special. We stayed two hours on site with this perfect time for the photos. Hardly got into the car for the start, a pouring rain began to fall. Perfect timing.

How is it that these objects are still present in the ghost town?

Bodie is a state historical park. This means that it is protected and monitored. Patrols pass regularly. It must be said that the Americans are very respectful and proud of their parks. Other protected ghost towns are much more staged. Here, the state to decide to do nothing, a wise decision!

Why did you go to this country? How long did you stay?

Like many, I have always been fascinated by the United States. I dreamed for a very long time (and I still dream) of making a large West - East loop. And yet, in 2016, after visiting more than 20 countries, I still had not gone there. It could not last any longer ... So I offered my friend always a small road-trip photo of 20 days in the American West. We have traveled 4000km in 14 days and have a lot to explore Los Angeles the rest of the time. I really was not disappointed as I returned this year in 2017 for another 20 days. And I think going back in February 2018. Once you get a taste of it, you can not do without it.

Many of your photographs have been taken in the US, do you think this country has a greater photographic richness than others?

This country is incredibly huge. Environments, cultures, populations and landscapes sometimes change radically from one area to another. It bears its name well as it may seem like several merged countries. This gives a richness and diversity almost infinite for the photo. All subjects, styles, angles are imaginable.

If you add to that the two border countries, Mexico and Canada, then you could spend a whole life taking pictures without having explored half the territory.That said, many countries in the world have this wealth. The peculiarity of the United States is the ease with which you can move around and meet people. The unity of language, the absence of borders, the kindness of the Americans and the quality of the infrastructures make exploration of this country a breeze.

Last question more personal: Since when do you practice the profession of photographer?

I have been taking pictures since 1997, when I joined ARFIS, a film school in Lyon. First in Argentique thanks to the laboratory of the school, and then very quickly in digital. Although very limited at that time (I started with a 2 megapixel camera, far away from today's 42) I was completely won over by the freedom that this new technology offered. But all these years, my practice of photography has remained irregular and secondary behind my activity of director and editor. Until last year or so I had a kind of revelation, a professional epiphany: I am a lover of the picture before being a lover of history. And even more than writing scenarios, I like to write images, atmospheres, universes. For this reason, I went from a "director who sometimes takes pictures" to a "photographer who sometimes makes films". A liberating decision and extremely exciting. The projects are multiplying, the fields are expanding, and above all, I am much more in action.

Today I work on photographic projects that look very much like cinema. I think that all those years spent writing scripts have obviously influenced me a great deal. I now integrate all this journey and this experience in the cinema for my future photos creations

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