Story

White Out
by François Schaer

I am interested in the presence of humans in mountain landscapes. The connecting thread of the series is snow. Since the beginning of the 20th century winter sports have defined the Alpine identity. Ski runs have tamed the landscape: fences, posts, avalanche barriers, lifts, mountain huts. It is no longer possible to ignore the evidence of human intrusion. Deliberately echoing 19th century Romantic art, my images of ski runs try to reveal the originality of a "new contemporary landscape". I focus on its intrinsic aesthetic, even its extreme beauty.
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My work is far from condemning the degradation of the mountains. Jours Blancs also looks behind the scenes at the now familiar cast of actors who ensure the maintenance of the transformation of the mountains: ratrak drivers, lift attendants, patrols, snow scientists, ski instructors, etc. I set out to meet these workers and to take unadorned portraits of them which have revealed unexpected insights related to mountain occupations in winter. As for the skiers themselves, they are not shown as individuals but as part of a play on scale which suggests that, even when domesticated, mountains still clearly dominate us.

Choosing to photograph only on days of white-out allows us to move into another dimension, theatrical, a bit like at the end of a performance after the curtain has fallen. The presence of objects on the ski runs seems immutable, set against a decor where a uniform white glow envelopes the skiers and lightens them; ski-ing becomes a surrealistic tale.
Jours Blancs can be seen as my shadow brochure of winter sports.

The photographs were taken in the Swiss Alps between 2011 and 2013.