Gwen CRESSMAN, Université de Strasbourg, France
This proposal is based on the set of photographs shared with me in a document entitled “Toward the exhibition”, which contains photographs taken by Jean Gottmann in the United States, in France, in Québec and also in Israel, Jordan, Poland, Japan over a relatively long period of time ranging from 1947 to 1980. In the paper I propose to present, I will be focusing only on the North-American part of the corpus (around 45 photographs) as well as the photographs which Gottmann included in the 1954 edition of his book entitled L’Amérique (Gottmann 1963). One could have expected the geographer to incline in favor of aerial views offering a commanding take over the land, as well as cartographic and topographic potential, and yet what clearly transpires from Gottmann’s personal photographic practice is a clear sense of groundedness. His pictures are taken from his own level, most often standing on a city street or a country road, unfurling the banal of North-American cityscapes and roadscapes. This photographic observation of urban and/or industrial settings can be understood as contributing to a personal reading of the territory as landscape. This paper will seek to understand how Gottmann’s photographic practice contributes to the post war era interest in photographing the vernacular, as opposed to the spectacular, in the landscape. I will argue that it is not contradictory to understand Gottmann’s photographs as serving esthetic goals as well as performing a scientific enquiry. Eventually, I will attempt to understand Gottmann’s photographs in the light of New Topographics exhibition of 1972 in Rochester and the emergence in the 1980s in France of the DATAR photographic mission which seeks precisely to think the cultural dimension of territories beyond their political, economic or geo-topographical dimensions.
Keywords: Jean Gottmann|Photography|Territory|Landscape|Enquiry