About the Van Clergue Project

... everything was visible to the naked eye. No filter, no manipulation in the darkroom. At most, the eye that blinks in the sun of the marshes.  -- 

Lucien Clergue, Camargue Secrète

Voir les photos

I was inspired to take these photographs of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia by seeing a large exhibit of photographs by Lucien Clergue, and later by his book of photographs of the Camargue, the marshy area south of his hometown of Arles. His photographs of the Camargue fascinate me in a way no other group of photographs do, with the patterns of light and dark, and especially the intricacies of the reflections of plants and branches protruding from the water.

These photographs started out as an exercise in technique, but grew to become a deeper exercise in thinking about what kinds of photographs Clergue might have made if he lived in Vancouver, as well as what kinds of photographs I might want to take from this type of perspective. Looking at Clergue's photographs, there are various themes that reappear not just in the Camargue photographs but in much of his work. Two of these themes that Clergue has discussed explicitly are "borders", as in the boundaries between land and water, and "morphism", as in seeing animate shapes in inanimate objects. These two themes, in addition to the themes of light and dark and reflections are represented in these photographs as well.

Of course, there are some obvious differences between my photographs of Stanley Park and Clergue's photographs of the Camargue. The most obvious ones are the environmental differences, notably the ice of Vancouver in winter. Another difference is that more of my photographs than Clergue's look up rather than down. A more subtle difference is temporal: Clergue spent 17 years on his Camargue project while in the end I only had 3 consecutive months for these Vancouver photographs.

Last but not least, I am not Lucien Clergue. I have had different experiences, even with respect to the place of the photographs, since I was a temporary immigrant in Vancouver, not a life-long resident of the area. I have a different temperament than is evidenced in Clergue's writings. As well, I have different ideas about photography in general. These personal differences are the most profound, and the most subtle in their effects.

What started out as an exercise has become an integral part of how I see the world, and significantly improved my photographic vision. Thank you, M. Clergue.

The Rules of the Game

I tried to follow the spirit of Clergue's project even though I am thoroughly in the digital realm. That means I had only a protective UV filter (to protect against my carelessness); images were taken in a RAW format with no post-processing changes to the camera's parameters; and these black and white images were created from the original color images by Photoshop Elements' "remove color" operation.

© Chris Culy 2010-2016