“My Dunkirk ” by Anaïs Duvert

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Probably most of us know Dunkirk by coming across the 65mm – IMAX movie by Cristopher Nolan, the one nominated for Oscar, AACTA, BAFTA, Golden Glob and even to the David di Donatello – by the way yes, this is a way to tell you that it is worth watching but maybe only if you have a paper bag for panic attacs next to the couch). Aside for the constant tension, the type that makes you hold your breath for the whole time, what else strikes the most about this film?
The story is set at the Belgian border, in the extreme North of France, in Dunkerque, between the big marine port and the Plage de Malo-les-Bains. One remembers the landscapes in Dunkirk as extremely delicate: immense beaches, open sea and then nothing. But one wonders what would the landscape look like today, almost 80 years after Operation Dynamo.
We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Anaïs, a young French photographer with a great artistic sensibilities and an appreciation for cinema and cinematography. In this interview she seems to point out how it is that something we like might take one somewhere else, how art is able to trace paths so easy to follow, but not only that. By staying true to her vision but also trying to account for a collective reality, Anaïs invites us, with her work, to close our eyes and dream with her.
Dunkerque today is very different from how we remember it: it’s urban, industrial, with more concrete than sand and theproject “My Dunkirk” is able to portray every single details. It is divided in three sections: “Industry“, “Morning Dew” and “Night gifts” which refer three different moment of the day. We asked her a few questions for find out more.

First of all, you said you are attracted by the photography side in cinema, is there some connection with the film of Christopher Nolan “Dunkirk”? Everyone know Dunkerque thanks to it, and your project is divided in three parts as Nolan’s film.

No, there’s no link with Christopher Nolan’s movie. I’m a big fan of Nolan but I must confess that I did not see that movie in particular. May be because I’m not so attracted by war movies unless may be Saving Private Ryan from Steven Spielberg (I’m also a big big fan of Spielberg). But, I did not know that Dunkirk was in three parts, it’s a curious coincidence and I’m quite glad to know it now!

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So why exactly Dunkerque? What do you see in this city that capture your attention?

What pushed me to go to Dunkirk was mostly the French series Baron Noir. It was more the visual than the scripting content of the series which pleased me (the main topic of that series is contemporary politic in France). When I saw all these big buildings, that sea which appeared to me like the infinite and that perfect calm, I knew it was the place I had to go to. I think I needed calm and peace a that moment in my early photographer life, and I chose the good place.

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Tell us about the first part of your project, “Industry”. You said that it was forbidden to take pictures, it’s interesting but also strange, do you know why?

I wanted to capture the night here, including the industrial one. I wanted to embellish all that pollution and that night life, working on smoke and lights which came from that industrial and unique place. It was forbidden to take pictures in the industrial side because of terrorists attacks in France, I think they now really want to protect these kind of sectors to avoid any problem like this. I had the chance to meet a fantastic host who drove me through the industrial side by car. So I took my pictures at that particular and quick moment. In fact, after 15min there, the pollution was very present and it obliged us to leave and to interrupt our trip.

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Nobody expected that Dunkerque would be so industrial today, especially watching your photo.

With my work, I tried to show the contrary, in fact. It was like tempting to forget the bad side of industrial practices by showing a dreamlike content. That’s also why I call the whole series My Dunkirk, because it’s my way to see things and to transmit it. Everybody has his own way to consider and see things, I think.

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Tell us about the second part of your project, “Morning Dew”.

Morning dew means “rosée du matin” in French. My wish, by creating that part 2, was to embrace and show one unique morning in that city. Far away from any violence or hard times, that series highlights urban aspects, in a deep silence, sometimes with people, sometimes not. As, the dew is delicately disposed on a flower, my eye also tried to delicately capture what the sweetness of a morning means to me, between concrete and sea.

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The last part of the project, “Night gifts” it’s the follow up of a series begun two years ago which is travelling the world with her across the Netherlands, Tunisia and france, attempting to capture fragments of half-asleep life through the window of the buildings, as some sort of little night treat.

I called that series Night Gifts it’s because night offers me a gift that I have to give back to it, it’s like an exchange with it. And I find the word “gift” very sensible and beautiful. Giving is beautiful, in the fact of giving, there’s no price at all. Night contains a mystery in its silence, it could sometimes be noise even if it’s silent. So, we jump from one window lighten to a calm moon. I also tried not to be far away from the collective reality (once in our lives, we all have asked ourselves who was behind this window. I always noticed that we have this unconscious look when we are passing by lit houses or flats). But, I also tried to answer to my own imagination, and I think I succeeded. And if the result of my own vision embraces the others’ one, I’m fully satisfied because the link is made between the photographs, the spectator and me.

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All images © Anaïs Duvert
Written by Marta Mauriello
Translation by Claudia Russo

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