Title: Derrière La Retenue Photographer: Sylvie Bonnot Date of publication: 2017 Publisher: Actes Sud, Arles, France - (coedtion with Fondation Facim) Dimensions: 26,0 x 26,0cm Pages: 144 ISBN: 978-2-330-08127-0
About the book In its entirety, Derrière la Retenue ( =Beyond the Restraints) includes over 15,000 photographs taken over the period of a year through weekly sessions each month. I lived in the hydropower world, adopting its rhythms, learning its language, and working with its operators prompted by the artistic commission from the French electric conglomerate EDF and patrimony foundation Facim. The art project is documented in the monograph published by Editions Actes Sud in 2017.
The images in this series encapsulate the typology I crafted to map out Savoie’s industrial territory that strangely resembles a natural landscape. The task, I felt, called for a survey of the meteorological and geographic force fields of these imponderable terrains. I decided to create a subjective atlas of forms related to the given hydraulic sites to identify the shapes and shades of water, the spectrum of steel, to confront the hydraulic leviathan and reflect its particular semantics—it is not about north or south, but about right bank or left bank, upstream or downstream.
The primary photographic challenge was to capture the at times anthropomorphic and at times animal power of these deeply human and immense situations. Inside power stations, devoid of people but filled with humanity, machines run louder than storms. Steel and concrete become muscular. One is forced to forget gently flowing rivers and to embrace the sheer strength and power of water. From my woman’s height, I perceived the blinding flow of 90 cubic meters per second, observed 320 million cubic meters of water being gradually drained from an artificial lake, and was struck by a vision of the Pelton wheel as an industrial triumph and a worrying, monstrous figure.