Gilles Caron, tribute through images

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“Pin twenty years, not a word […]. I cultivated non-memory to continue living, not to remember. And now I have to reclaim our common life. I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. “ So expressed in the columns of Release in 2012 Marianne Caron-Montely, wife of photographer Gilles Caron, disappeared when he was only 30 years old during a report in Cambodia in 1970. The last image of him shows him crossing the ferry to take the road n ° 1 going from Phnom Penh to Saigon, in an area controlled by the Khmer Rouge from Pol Pot. His widow spoke during the publication of a scrapbook telling her journey, and gathering a selection of her photos. This is the book that Mariana Otero started from (In our hands, the Assembly…) for this very moving return to an elegant and discreet figure of photojournalism who fell for the image, victim of the news.

Iconic

The posterity of Gilles Caron focused on one of the most famous shots of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, captured in May 1968 in front of the Sorbonne, a smile of defiance in the face of a CRS. The filmmaker analyzes at length the before and after of this iconic photo and reconstructs step by step the way the photographer had to seek his place and capture his subject, not only as the emblem of the student movement, but as an individual caught in the spasm of history, both grown up and isolated by it. A year earlier, the photographer had covered the Six Day War for the Gamma agency, where Raymond Depardon was brought in. With Vincent Lemire, director of the French Research Center in Jerusalem, Mariana Otero examines the images taken in the wake of the Israeli soldiers, how he hitchhiked and found himself in the front row when they, in a patriotic impulse -mystical, throw themselves on a wall in a narrow street and which he does not understand immediately that it is the Wailing Wall. Lemire also notes on the images that he is probably one of the very last to have been able to photograph the Maghreb neighborhood which faces the wall and whose 138 houses will be razed, an episode that has long remained as a blind zone in the history of the country. A few months later, Caron is in Vietnam where he documents the terrible battle of Dak To. In 1968, in addition to the events of May, he made three trips to Biafra where the civil war starved the population.

silences

What impresses here is the short period considered and the intensity of the situations crossed by the photographer who always wants to see for himself, takes risks while appearing, on the images that show it or during a short televised appearance, the exact antinomy of the armored adventurer. For six months, Mariana Otero explored the hard drive entrusted to her by the Gilles-Caron Foundation, that is 100,000 photos, 4,000 rolls of digitized film. His approach, almost Japanese in the meticulous attention to detail, the prudence of conjectures, the taste also for the silences and the melancholy surrounding this corpus, allow images and situations to be redeployed in their context, on a scale of a neighborhood, a moment, a life. The letters written by Caron to his mother when he is called in the middle of the Algerian war, or to his wife from this Cambodia where he regrets having surrendered and from which he will not return, further add to the renewed aura of this absent gaze, fleeting yet dazzling witness.

Didier Péron

Story of a look of Mariana Otero (1 h 33).

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