With every successive project, Raphaël Dallaporta restates his photographic creed. Antipersonnel was like a sales catalogue, glorifying mines from the neutrality of his studio in a military base. Domestic Slavery used a taut documentary strategy to treat the issue of slavery. On the right, the photographs, repetitive, impenetrable, the facade of the scene of the event; on the left, the text tells the story. Raphaël Dallaporta’s latest work took him to Afghanistan alongside a team of archaeologists working on an inventory of Afghan heritage. The photographer has been helping them map the sites. There have been many attempts at aerial photography since the nineteenth century. Nadar went up in a hot-air balloon. Dallaporta has built his own flying machine equipped with cameras. Using this technology, the photographer continues the photographic reflection of his predecessors. The shooting process is automated and the areas photographed are reconstructed by means of a powerful image-recognition algorithm. Dallaporta’s inquiring camera sees ruins as layers pushing back the remains of history. There is the ruin disarranged by modern conflicts; the ruin as scarified landscape accumulating the marks of time. The ruin of the future.
The first photographs of Raphaël Dallaporta’s project Ruins (season 1), which he began in 2010, are presented exclusively for the Rencontres d’Arles Discovery Award. Raphaël Dallaporta has worked with bomb-disposal units, lawyers, journalists and forensic doctors. Since last autumn, he has been working with a team of archaeologists from the north of Afghanistan. Using an aerial camera system—a special drone adapted by Dallaporta for the project—he has been able to fly over Afghanistan taking pictures of the sites. The purpose of it all is to compile an inventory of Afghan national heritage; it is hard to get to and in danger of destruction. Quite apart from natural phenomena, the sites and monuments are primarily endangered by human actions such as pillage, dynamiting or the location of military zones on rich archaeological terrains. The artist’s images place the country’s current situation within a historic tradition. As a result of repeated invasions, this coveted territory retains the imprint of the various civilisations that have occupied it. Fully appreciating the urgency of saving this heritage, Raphaël Dallaporta has brought all his technical know-how to the task. The figure of the ruin at the centre of his compositions indicates various signs of destruction in the remains. It breaks with the symmetry of the rectangle, causing the photographic constructions to gain in emotive power what they seem to lose in formal perfection—which reflects the state of these deteriorating remains. The forms are obtained, from several shots taken on the same flight, through calculations made with automatic reconstruction and image-recognition software. Reality is recreated from these shots by lining up different isometric projections. Like photography, ruins have a special relationship with time: they are the evidence of a time which no longer exists. The project presents a process of deterioration suspended in time. The ruin, which is the project’s raison d’être, affects us and reassures us about human precariousness.