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The «  Danube Voyager »

I have chosen the theme of intimacy once again. This series blends two stories: a real current event, the sinking of three cargo ships – two Ukrainian vessels, the “Danube Voyager” and the “Arvine”, and the Georgian ship, the “Simba” – that ran aground on an unfortunate day, Friday, November 12, 1999, on the Mediterranean coast, precisely on the beach des Coussoules in La Franqui, France, during a massive storm.

The other coincidence that resembles the music of my own life is a waltz by Strauss. Indeed, I am a European, born on November 8, 1959 from a love affair between a Frenchman, my father, and a German, my mother.

Cargo Danube Voyager, 1999

It was the “Danube Voyager” that first caught my attention with its name, due to the river and its fundamental connection to Europe, this Europe sometimes divided or united, controversial and subject to eternal debates. Seeing this enormous cargo ship ridiculously nestled on the beach made me think of a ready-made, a surrealist artwork like Marcel Duchamp’s upside-down urinal. It was like a mirror holding up a double of myself, the unpredictable chance of life reflecting back to my identity, my carcass laid on an in-between, a passage, a threshold, a border. The confusion of my origins resurfaced, giving me a glimpse of my mixed heritage that had sometimes played tricks on me, such as during my military service. I couldn’t choose a homeland even though I felt connected to France. I couldn’t imagine aiming at one of my German brothers. The army exempted me, I don’t say this with regret, but for my French father, it was another matter.

Statue of Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi_Finland_2011

I photographed the cargo ships with a 1950s 4×5 inch large format camera, an excellent American Kodak Ektar lens. I also brought a tripod, a light meter, and two film holders, each containing two positive films. The spectacle was completely surreal. Afterward, with my gear in my backpack, I climbed aboard the “Danube Voyager” using the staircase fixed to the ship’s wall. I encountered the crew, who were a bit disoriented to see me, as maritime law strictly prohibited me from being on board. The ship was considered another nation, and they themselves couldn’t come ashore.

Ship’s order transmitter, Finland, 2011

What better river than the Danube to talk about my identity? From the photograph of the Danube Voyager, all the others were born. I searched through my archives in search of complementary shots that could harmonize with each other. I opted for a sepia color scheme for all the images, giving them a timeless, antique, and modern look. This series tells the story of several generations.

Shadow, Finland, 2011
On the port of Helsinky, Finland, 2011
Double Window, 2011
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John-David Samblanet

David Samblanet is an artist-researcher who uses various media such as photography, video, and sound to capture and preserve the impressions of time, while… More »

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