Dordogne Dreams

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  • Dordogne Dreams: The Périgord of Old, In a Different Light.
     
    East of Bordeaux and west of Provence, in the north of the ancient region known as Aquitaine, is the old French province of Périgord. Now called Dordogne, it is a region of craggy castles, honey-colored stone villages, deep walnut forests, and the painted caves of long-gone Cro-Magnon man. During the peak tourist season it is much as any fabled southern French tourist destination: choked with buses, heavy with heat, and jammed with those trying to “get away from it all.” Off season, the rains and damp chill are as welcome as the empty streets and quiet ruins. This is the perfect time and season to photograph the ancienne Périgord, the old villages and buildings and countryside that are the main attractions of modern Dordogne.
     
    Using infrared-sensitive cameras I have compiled a portfolio of striking black and white photographs taken in the Dordogne. With infrared B&W photography, skies and water can take on an inky blackness, clouds ‘pop’ in dramatic fashion, rocks and buildings become chiseled with detail, foliage becomes milky white and grass is often mistaken for snow. Depending upon atmospheric conditions, images can be topographically sharp or soft and gauzy with a ghostly dreaminess. Though the Dordogne is a colorful region, infrared techniques permit the presentation of this land in a different light.
     
    As in a dream, the images can transport one back to another time,
    in a different land.
     
    Sweet slumbers.
     
  • ___________
     
    Périgord Vert
    ___________
  • "Lords come and lords go. But the castle...it still stands!"
  • "I asked her: 'Is it a church or a fortress?' She sighed...'oui.'"
  • "Can you see the monks in quiet contemplation? Can you hear their white robes whispering as they glide through the cloister? Can you feel their lives pass, quietly? I can."
  • “With closed eyes and wind rustling the line of trees behind her, it took little to imagine the ghosts of long-dead monks chanting in divine benediction.”
  • "Windows and doors...look through, pass through. Are you outside looking in or inside passing out?"
  • "A certain elegance and restraint insists that we let things diminish on their own. Let the patina of time work its magic and you will be rewarded by the beauty of its ruination."
  • "Much can be understood by observing a village's square. It is the 'cœur de la ville,' the heart of the town. Is it beating strongly or weakly? Do you hear the chatter of gossip and the clinking of glasses? Or is it as the 'cimetière': deathly quiet, a ghostly wasteland of silence?" 
  • “The ancient bridge crossed the Dronne and led to the even older abbey and church of Brantôme, where the bishop waited.”
  • "Glory and honor lived within these walls...or, is that wistful and willful nonsense speaking?"
  • "The lives of others lived here. They knew nothing of ours, and we know little of theirs. But as flesh and blood, heart and mind, feelings and desires, in this we know each other very well."
  • "'What do buildings know of pain and suffering, or for that matter, happiness and joy?' 'Beaucoup et rien' he replied...'beaucoup et rien.'"
  • "The building spoke of that peculiar time when castles transitioned to chateaux. When defense and battle gave way to leisure and entertaining. And, he was much the happier for it."
  • "Even with the sun shinning, the bowels of the chateau remained cool, dark and mysterious."
  • "The smells, the sounds, the sights…she loved the marketplace. The poor and rich, nobility and thieves, men and women, buyers and sellers all come together, in one swirling mass."
  • "So old it seems to lean this way and that way with cracks running hither and thither and yet it still stands and still serves."
  • "A merging of styles, a progression of purposes, a sometimes successful and just as often not, inorganic blending of eras...all of this defines our chateaux."
  • "Looking vainly for the guards along the castle's precipice, it became clear that his home was as empty as his fields."
  • ____________
    Périgord Blanc
    ____________
  • “And as in a dream, he saw the chateau: brooding, high on the hill, glowering at all.”
  • “Layers of texture greeted them. Gnarled plantings in stony soil on the hilltop. The mixed hardwood forests below. Soft clouds above, rolling by. And in the far distance: the chateau sitting proud, aloof.”
  • ___________
    Périgord Noir
    ___________
  • “The lords sit no more, high in their tower. Brought low they were, by time, not power.”
  • “Walking fields others trod long ago, we discovered mysterious objects below and above, the clouds roiled."
  • “The valley separates us but also binds us. We would not be here, if not for them. And they would not be there, if not for us.”
  • "The soft curve of the hillside. The gentle sighing of the grasses in the breeze. The dark clouds threatening cool rain. And there: Castle Beynac, imperious but diminished by the landscape."
  • "They have seen much, these walls, doorways and empty windows. But most tales are long gone, lost to the final quiet of time."
  • "How old is it? How can this be measured? Years? Centuries? Lives? Births? Deaths? Tears? Smiles? The wear on the steps? The black in the fireplace? It feels old..it is old."
  • “Stony silence; stones that listen. The village offers much and gives up nothing.”
  • "Castles and villages, forests and vineyards, all bound by the Dordogne. A place, a thing, a land, an idea, a river."
  • “In the wilds, there is Sainte Madeleine. For 1300 years mass was celebrated there. Then…no more.”
  • "Can you imagine a place continuously inhabited for 17,000 years? Stone axes give way to metal. Pagan rites to Christian. Fire seeking to fire starting. Painting on walls to painting on canvas. Carving out caves to building castles. Continuity, yes. But not permanence."
  • "In glorious ruins do we see the future."
  • "Pepper-pot towers, faux machicolations, blind arrow-slits...it was a castle worthy of a baron...a Baron von Münchhausen, that is!"
  • “The languid and sun-dappled Vézère flowed past the sunken skiff. A willow's branches lazily reflected in the river's path and we dozed, warmed by the sun's rays — and each other — lulled to lassitude by the gentle lapping of the water.”
  • "A sea of wilderness before us and we weathering the gale, standing on the wrecked reef of the Chateau de l'Herm."
  • "Resplendent, the countryside is designed for rambling. Through closed forests and into wide fields, the clouds alternatively offering shade and shower, we could spend days, weeks, perhaps years, wandering."
  • "The traveler thought it meant something that over a thousand years ago his Viking forebears invaded this little village with sword, axe and burning brand whilst he carried but a baguette, sketch pad and pencils.”
  • "The Dordogne River is alive in the Périgord Noir! It makes no straight line, preferring to entice the traveler with her curves. Each bend may reveal…a village! A castle! Cliffs and forests! Here the Dordogne is by turns playful and conniving...alive!
  • "Limestone houses, wooden shutters, slate roofs, another village greets us."
  • “The Barons of Beynac: 800 years of nobility and kings, sages and fools, scoundrels and saviors, the pious and profane…human history on display, connected by one castle."
  • “For 100 years we stared at each other across the valley of the Dordogne, we French and those English. From our high ramparts we hurled oaths and from our sally ports we launched occasional forays. They were often foolish and sometimes deadly.”
  • “A lifetime of love and purpose and giving is a life to celebrate.”
  • "Like many stories, the saga of Château des Milandes and Josephine Baker is joyful and sorrowful, filled with love and loss. But like most good stories, it is also one of survival, perseverance, and purpose."
  • “Can this beautiful land of so many wars, finally sleep peacefully?”
  • "Do not trifle with le Château de Castelnaud, monsieur! It has survived the pious Cathars, the bloody Simon de Montfort, the calculating French, the grasping English, incompetent nobility, rioting peasants, religious wars, revolutionary depredations, and the heavy hand of historical restorers! We will survive and yes, outlive you too!"
  • "Finally his wagon rolled into Sarlat...capital and stony heart of the Périgord Noir. Somewhere a pint of ale, warm bread, and confit de canard awaited him. 'Soon!' his stomach rumbled."
  • “The quiet of the city, the emptiness of the streets, conspired to trap him in a maze of his own imagining."
  • “The door was open but the warmth he felt was his own sweat, trickling between tensed shoulder blades."
  • ______________
    Périgord Pourpre
    ______________
  • “Crouching in the lee of a large oak: was the chateau guarding some treasure, or just dozing in the afternoon sun?”
  • “The pathway was as inviting to her as the promise of the sweet yellow nectar of Monbazillac.”