June 11, 2021
Photography and words by Fanny Genoux
Introduction by Melanie Meggs
French photographer, Fanny Genoux has a deep interest in humans and their effects on their environment. They are always at the centre of what she photographs, whether their presence is direct or by the traces of their past presence they leave behind, by their constructions, by its passage: silhouette, shadow or trace, it gets lost, anonymous in the geometry drawn by cities, material or color, both influencing each other.
For Fanny photography is an integral part of her life. Her photos sublimate reality, revealing poetry where you don't expect it. In her current project OFF SEASON, Fanny captures the quiet evanescent concrete beaches of Nice from above.
I’ve always liked watching from above, looking over.
The high-angle shot, flattens the perspectives and gives the impression of a world in miniature. An elaborate graphic arrangement is something I try to achieve in my photographs. While taking a walk, I quite naturally try and gain height in order to watch what’s going on below.
The Promenade des Anglais overlooking the beaches offers an interesting viewpoint. The city of Nice is famous for its shingle beaches that stretch for several miles from the old town in the East to the airport in the West. The Promenade des Anglais runs alongside and overlooks these beaches; this walk got its name from the English who chose the Baie des Anges as their favourite winter holiday resort in the nineteenth century. They loved the winter balminess of the Riviera which Nice residents still enjoy.
Summer’s heat is sweltering and the city is swamped: as vast as the beaches may be, no shingle is left to be seen. Nice residents make themselves scarce. Yet when the high season ends, the Promenade empties of strollers and so do the beaches. The private beaches’ structures are dismantled leaving behind empty, bleak sections of exposed concrete and the regulars may take over to enjoy spring or autumn’s balmy sun, and the gentle light.
Nice’s Eastern beaches, la Paillole, les bains Militaires, la Réserve and Coco-Beach, are very popular among the residents. They’ve been going there to bathe for ages. Spending time there is an ancient local tradition. These beaches are part of the local heritage and the regulars meet there all year round. On one’s own or with others, to sunbathe, read, drink a coffee, have a bite, or even play the piano! From one season to the next, recognizing their bathing suit or their towel, I’ve been able to watch the same people set up there. These photos tell the story of a part of the local and discreet history, nowhere near the French Riviera’s clichés.
During several off-seasons (from October to April), I’ve been especially observing two interesting spots.
One is located at the far end of the Promenade, right before Rauba Capeu (a small headland whose name means 'Hat Snatcher') where the Castel’s private beach is settled during the high season; once it’s dismantled, the large concrete slabs left there are much appreciated by the inhabitants of Nice.
The other 'beach'; is situated just before the port, under the embankment, where the now underwater Paillole beach used to be. Large blocks of concrete support the embankment on which the regulars never get tired to stretch out.
I enjoy watching from above these persons going about their business on these concrete beaches. The framing shows them isolated against a concrete background. The light is overwhelming, ever-present. In their swimsuits, they stand out against these backgrounds that change from grey to ochre according to the light. Or do they disappear in this background?
There’s a dual contrast: between the bright and saturated colours of the persons and the concrete’s colour on the one hand; and between this grey, rough, hard background and the almost naked bodies’ frailty on the other hand.
The reading of these photographs cannot be straightforward, it is equivocal. On watching it, one may get confused before understanding what they’re watching: are we facing a wall? Are the persons following on from the background? Do they take over this background or are they engulfed by it?