Many of us are familiar with “Paris plage” and its summer operation to transform a piece of the city into a place of relaxation and swimming, but we are less familiar with the fifty or so urban beaches in France.
Inflatable boats beached, clusters of children and big buoys, palm trees, pedal boats, fine sand, seagulls singing… everything is there, except the sea…
This artificial landscape “offers” to its users, an often invisible population, the possibility of small escapes from home.
The beaches photographed by Céline Diais are moving, marked by a certain timelessness, a nostalgia for family albums, the carefree time spent in the sun during summer holidays.
Trained in journalism, mainly written, Céline Diais discovered a passion for images, and thus developed this practice both in a reporting vein and in more personal works as a visual artist.
The series Regarder la mer (Looking at the Sea) began in 2014, when she took note of the beach of Saint-Quentin, in Picardy. During 5 consecutive summers, the artist will photograph about fifteen places, mainly in the Paris region and in the north of France.
By using a small film camera (the Yashica Mat) she chose to go against the grain of sports photography, to which she is accustomed, and its thousands of burst shots. The object is discreet, making it easy to walk along these beaches and to become part of them to photograph the bathers, sharing a little of their time of escape.
An open-air theatre, these unusual landscapes have their own staging, and Céline Diais gives us a faithful vision of them, without retouching, where the décor is sufficient in itself and takes us into a phantasmagorical world at certain times.
Voir la mer (See the sea) is a tender look at a part of French society, also thwarting clichés about certain suburbs.
The water is not there, but poetry, softness and reverie are invited, between Jacques Tati’s Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Martin Parr’s more grating images.