In this rare moment of self-isolation, New York-based French photographer Brigitte Lacombe has been secluded in a remote ocean-side estate in Northern California. Inspired by the natural world that now surrounds her, Lacombe casts her lens on a lone swimmer at sea, an unidentified stranger taking a stroll on a secluded beach, and on the plants and wild-life that make an appearance on her daily walks. Brigittie’s new series of landscape photographs intimately express the artist’s life of solitude in her temporary home – a place of repose, beauty, and meditation.
Tell us about the beautiful photos I’m looking at.
A friend who invited me to stay in this wonderful house in a little town in Northern California, looking over the ocean. I’ve been coming here for twenty-five years or so.
There are two images of the view of the Pacific Ocean and the beach from above, with a lonely person swimming or walking in an otherwise empty landscape. It is the view I see every morning and every evening and many times in between, with the ever-changing light, the endless beauty.
There is also the image, a detail, of the fence and the tree trunks that I pass every day on my walks, and the one of the small bird, high up on the electric pole, with twigs in his beak, preparing his nest.
These images have a “BLOW UP” quality to them [(REF TO THE ANTONIONI FILM) – they are grainy, small moments observed from a distance when suddenly you have the time to look.
What has your time in isolation been like?
For seven weeks, I was in Manhattan, at my studio, confined by myself. I was very fortunate to be in a good place and to have all that I needed. Ever since I started working, I’ve never stayed so long in one place, since so much of my life is to travel —excessively, or even obsessively.
Not many people have the luxury to look at this period as a time to think, to be still, to look around, to read. I’m also always late in editing my work, so this time allowed me to get caught up. But then I was happy to escape and come to California where It’s the opposite of my Manhattan indoor studio situation, as here I can be outdoors.
What has been on your streaming list? What podcasts are you relying on?
I go back to the classics, like John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon and Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, all the films of Powell and Pressburger, and also the films directed by Billy Wilder but also by Andrei Tarkovsky. And Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt and Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game.
But most importantly, like everyone, I’m very concerned with what is happening in the world and around us, so I rely a lot on podcasts like Post Reports from the Washington Post, or the Daily from the New York Times, and The New Yorker Radio Hour. But, being French, I listen to France Culture, which is one of the best radio stations in France. Their coverage is really in depth, very diverse. So much extraordinary work is being done out there.
What artists, photographers, or other creative people have been sustaining you in this time?
I watch many Instagram Live conversations. I just listened to MoMA curator Paola Antonelli with Alice Rawsthorn and to the Serpentine Gallery’s podcasts, with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.
I always go to the Serpentine when I’m in London. Hans Ulrich Obrist ’s interests are so eclectic, he’s interested in so many things and types of people. His intellect is so broad and he’s so enthusiastic, with a very good positive energy. And everything that comes out of the Prada Foundation (Fondazione Prada)….
How has your time in quarantine affected your thoughts about your own lifestyle?
I know that I will not go back to the life I was living. Most people who live the same type of life I do knew there was something unsustainable about the speediness and the greediness of how we’ve been living. I don’t think that I want to travel as much or work as much. I may not live in a big city anymore. There is another way to live, not being in the center of things all the time, but rather going to cities for specific things you need to do or want to see. I will work on more in-depth projects instead of running everywhere.
And for sure I will spend more time with the people I love.