Pays de Bray / The Landscape of Madame Bovary (1982-1985)

I never read so many books in my life then during the time that I was a student at the academy of art. For some reasons art education was then based on the dogma’s of Bauhaus. As a first year student of photography you were building in the afternoon constructions of white paper after a morning of expressing yourself with clay. The good thing of the white paper construction lessons was that the professor was the bold Dutch poet Jan G. Elburg. During the construction business we talked about literature. He convinced me that Nabokov was interesting, that Jane Austen was marvelous, that you should not look at poetry as something ‘difficult’. Flaubert was also promoted. You only need a few of this kind of teachers in your life.

Reading Madame Bovary and trying to figure out where Flaubert located his masterpiece I decided to go to France and have a look at the scenery. This piece of work is made partly when I was still a student and two years later when I was working on the commission of the Rijksmuseum on Dutch Postwar Housing. It is never been published extensively, only a few bits in a literary magazine.

I had forgotten this project until about a year ago when I was approached by a Dutch publisher who wanted to publish an illustrated Madame Bovary. She had seen some of these photo’s in the literary magazine. So I scanned the 35 mm negatives and I was surprised about this document. Not so much about the Flaubert thing but more how the French countryside has changed over the last 30 years.