My first trips to Dieppe were made in 2002, creating a large-scale installation on the beach around the time the city was commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the raid. In creating this installation, Jubilee (2002), I wanted to stir up a reminder of the tragic event during the Second World War when 1,400 men died on the beaches of Dieppe. 913 of these men were Canadian soldiers.
My wish was to create a work in situ, right at the very scene of the tragedy, an ephemeral monument where hundreds of anonymous men's faces would look back at us. Thus, when the tide was low on the Dieppe beach, 913 photographic portraits in black and white could be seen like small photographic tombstones, a cemetery of pictures. When the tide came up, the pictures were carried away by the sea.
Throughout the set-up of this installation, I felt affected by the landscape around me. I felt compelled to further pursue work on the buried memories of this place, transforming the symbolic gesture of Jubilee into research on the countryside in this part of Upper Normandy. The colour photographs of the Caux series (2003) are a continuation—perhaps even the reverse side—of Jubilee, documenting what the soldiers landing at Dieppe saw: a wall of stone. A distinctive geological area swept by violent winds off the sea, the land in this part of the Pays de Caux still rises up like an impenetrable fortress. Its beauty seems harsh and arid. Guardian of a painful past, history seems to stand still here. Ruins of the Atlantic Wall dot the coast, revealing the austerity of the site. Like memory, the white chalk cliffs of the Pays de Caux gently erode and fall away. Caves are everywhere—open grottos, forgotten hiding places. These relics are souvenirs of an occupied land, final battlegrounds of times long ago. Yet the specters of the past still seem to haunt these ruins, a strange legacy further shaped by the force of nature.
In this monochromatic landscape, I photographed the surroundings in all their faded and minimal colours. I wanted to photograph these places in the silence of winter under threatening skies—when everything is shrouded in mystery, in a weakened light, with no shadows. Along this coast, I sought out the silent and muted sounds of history. Through what is visible, I wanted to draw attention to what is written in this land and, especially, awaken what is dramatically absent.
— Bertrand Carrière