In the summer of 1969, 17-year old Martine died of a heroin overdose in the women's room of the Bandol Casino. When I hear about this in November 2015, I am interested because of the sensationalist way the media covered the story, the use of the words “beatniks” and “dance hall”, and above all because I am familiar with Bandol: I decide to visit the scene of the tragedy.
Bandol Casino was built in the early 20th century on a manmade peninsula jutting relatively far out into the sea. I find a postcard and its countertype. In the darkroom, I obtain the contact by affixing a sheet of mat baryta paper on which the negative's wear and tiny cracks appear.
The same day, I take a picture in the parking lot of the Calanque d'Or residence in Bandol. A cypress soars skyward from an island of green in the middle of the asphalt. The cypress trees remind me of the part in the Odyssey when Ulysses is held on Calypso Island. The text mentions cypress trees. It also reminds me of Arnold Böcklin's painting Isle of the Dead. He made five versions.
The sea off Bandol is dotted with many small islands. I am interested in two of them: île de Bendor and île Rousse. On île de Bendor, there is an Our Lady of the Fishermen that reminds me of the figure of death in Böcklin's painting. Today, a cypress and a palm tree grow next to her. It is a private island reached by ferry to stay at the Hotel Delos. In Book VI of the Odyssey, Ulysses describes the magnificent trunk of a palm tree he saw on Delos Island. Île Rousse is a big deserted rock. I decide to go there and start looking for a boat to do that.
Setting out from Capélan Beach, I make the crossing on April 28, 2016.
Shortly after Martine's death, the mayor of Bandol announced his plan to create sailing clubs for young people. Today, the sailing school of Bandol is located right next to the “Youth Space”, and not far away, one can reach the Casino by walking along the beach.
In all the Mediterranean South, cypress trees are “the cemeteries’ tree”, associated with death, hence expressions such as “sleeping under a cypress”, being dead, or “we like the cypress better from afar than up close”. Through their soothing virtues and spiritual powers, cypress trees temper human passions, control ego reactions and calm emotional outbursts. The uses of cypress trees’ essential oil: during periods of separation (mourning, divorce), a few drops on a handkerchief to breathe each time sadness rises.
— Martine from Bandol takes as a starting point the uncover of a news item taking place in Bandol, a small town on the French Riviera, during the summer of 1969: a young woman was found dead in the toilets of the town's Casino following a heroin overdose.Based on the images published in the press at the time, research into the case moves away from the subject and focuses successively on an extract from the Odyssey, a painting from the Romantic period, the many small islands off the coast of Bandol, the symbolism of the cypress tree, etc... Systematically the links between images and texts are suggested without being imposed, through the juxtaposition of documents and images, presenting formal and thematic analogies. The final form overcomes the triviality of the initial news item by an erudite and sensitive evocation of the issues present in this story: youth, mourning, the sea, the lack of ideal.
EXHIBITIONS: Exhibited in “Une attention particulière”, Atelier de la mécanique, Rencontres d’Arles, 2017, in “Ce qui se joue”, chez agnès b., Paris, 2018, and in “À l’œuvre”, Centre Photographique Marseille, 2021.
GRANTS: Granted in 2021 by Centre Photographique Marseille, Pytheas-Capsule program.
CREDITS: “Ce qui se joue”, chez agnès b., Paris, 2018. © Leia Vandooren ; “Une attention particulière”, Atelier de la mécanique, Rencontre d’Arles, 2017. © Apolline Lamoril ; “À l’œuvre”, Centre Photographique Marseille, 2021. © Iris Winckler.