Tropaeolum majus L. (Grande Capucine)
Marie 82 ans



«The more the wonders of the outside world become inaccessible to us, the more our curiosities become acute. I am far from complaining about it, my orchid of today is a deformed dream full of attractions. It speaks to me of octopus, of hoof, of silver beard, of owl, of dry blood...»
Pour un herbarium, Colette.

In 2020, I was led to rediscover my close environment. I was born and I live in Enghien-Les-Bains, Val d’Oise, France. During my wanderings, the city took another dimension. Having become for a moment a circumscribed place, it was at the same time more present than ever, while having taken surrealist tints, as if uncorrelated from reality. Streets emptied of their inhabitants then filling up again, faces giving us as much the sensation of living a common situation as making us even more strangers to each other. Houses, gardens, asphalt paths that, in an ambivalent way, make me the protagonist and the tourist.

In the heart of a densely built Parisian suburb, my eyes were drawn one day by a plant growing along a wall. The sunlight brought out its texture, its shape, like a seminal apparition, even though I have walked pass it hundreds of times. It was the desire for «nature» in me that was manifesting itself, due to the frustration of not being able to leave the urban world. While staying within a few hundred meters of the lake of Enghien-Les-Bains, I started to photograph different types of plants, with the almost childish surprise of a great variety. The more I tightened my frame to show only the plant in itself, the more my imagination could escape to lands where vegetation is king.

This new concentration of the gaze had the effect, like a sensory ricochet, of paying attention to my hands, one day while I was passing them under water. There again, a daily gesture that had become mechanical and invisible took on another life. Beyond the purely usual function of manipulating, the hand began to tell its own story : like the rings of a tree’s cut trunk, my age and its adventures appeared in its lines and marks. A dream of reality. And yet so concrete. Taking the same distance as the geography of plants, I decided to meet my «unknown city dwellers» to capture their identity, not by a portrait of their face but by a photography of their hand. At first, both they and I were astonished as well as worried by my approach, influenced by the prevailing climate of mistrust. After an almost animal-like hesitation, each individual literally held out their hand to me, a symbol of a newfound humanity. Their name and age completed this singular face. After having thwarted the frustration of nature, I diverted that of sociability, of contact with the other.

In the evanescence of the city, I felt the birth of an intimate dialogue between a plant and a hand, which goes beyond the framework of my initial intention to blossom into a universal and timeless process. A return to the natural which proposes to redefine the notion of portrait, identity, history, through the association of these three elements which are inextricably part of the living world : manibus, plantae, urbs - hand, plant, city.

(some photos extracted from the book)


Carlos 48 ans
Picea abies (Epicea)

Fagus grandifolia (Hêtre américain)
Camille 24 ans

Mario 45 ans
Equisetum hyemale L. (Prêle d’hiver)

Euphorbia characias (Euphorphe Chacarias)
Tarkan 36 ans

Eva 21 ans
Hylotelephium telephium (Orpin pourpre)

Tulipa sylvestris L. (Tulipe sauvage)
Djibril 25 ans

Cyclamen hederifolium (Cyclamen de Naples)
Jean 71 ans
Caroline 30 ans
Cornus alba L. (Cornouiller blanc)

Quercus robur (Chêne pédonculé)
Idir 51 ans

Sohan 4 ans
Prunus serotina (Merisier)

Pierre 74 ans
Hedera helix L. (Lierre grimpant)

Furcraea foetida (Aloès vert)
William 43 ans