Sandrine Cnudde, poet, photographer, hiker
FR - Poet, photographer, Sandrine Cnudde used to be a gardener and a landscaper. But her "nomadic nature" soon got the better of her and, in 2006, led her to travel abroad to discover the world.
A need for freedom and a change of scenery led Sandrine from Norway to Scotland and, closer to home, to Corrèze, Lozère and the Pyrenees...
She needed to write, to testify, to photograph, to share her feelings, her experience, her perception of change, of elsewhere. "Her writing, based on the human/landscape/animal connection, traces the vision of a world in movement and opens up the inner journey".
Poet, walker and so much more
Combining writing with photography, Sandrine Cnudde puts on her boots as well as her notebook in her pocket to write down her thoughts and ideas.
The photographs are the ideal link between her particular vision of what surrounds us and the immobile spectators that we are, fond of new sensations and discoveries. The landscapes are thus immortalised, conveying an inner life unlike any other, as an initiation to another world.
"Each trip is motivated by a questioning of a place or a relationship to a place"
On her return, Sandrine worked on her collections in a spirit of revealing invisible spaces, the silent links that unite people to their territories.
Pleased to meet you for the Interview section of UzEssentiel,
Since your first photographic reportage at the end of the 80s, you have changed your professional orientation several times...
"Indeed, I first trained in horticulture. Landscape composition, attention to detail, museography which I also studied, as well as understanding the exterior and imitating space, gave me the necessary basis for the creation of my landscape agency.
Photography is a bit like that too I think. Communicating the wonder, the unreal, the fascination for the diversity of the world around us. As for the human element, it came into my work little by little.
Poetry came gradually. I now take part in reading and writing workshops, which give a different impetus to my creations, a dimension even more oriented towards sharing".
In the beginning were photography and travel. Then came writing...
"The union of these three disciplines is quite exciting. The drawing and watercolour painting that I practised at the very beginning faded away in favour of film photography and then, at the turn of the century, of digital photography. It happened naturally, simply.
Witnessing the present, the everyday, transmitting emotion.
My outdoor trips, under the stars or in a tent, are also an opportunity to perfect my approach to nature. In parallel to my travels, I have learned to "survive" in the open air, taking part in several survival courses, to be ready for anything and above all not to interfere with the environment".
You are known and recognised as a walking poet... Is this a designation that you adopt with pleasure or do you consider yourself more as a travelling photographer, a globetrotter reporter in a way?
"Yes, that fits in quite well with my current curriculum. Walking generates writing, which is expressed in poetry. I like to offer through my reports a little of the landscapes I have crossed. I tell of my peregrinations in India, Alaska, the USSR, Mexico, the Netherlands (in 2007, the Eauland Prospekt, the walk on the water, 900 km on foot along the Dutch coastline in the face of rising water levels linked to climate change and the solutions envisaged to counteract it)... but also in the heart of French regions, such as the Lozère...
Walking alone allows me to recharge my batteries, to deepen my sense of freedom, and offers me the necessary freedom from the outside world to draw inspiration for my poetry. A woman should not hesitate to go out on the road alone, into the wilderness. There is no particular risk in that, if one is well prepared, attentive to what surrounds one...
My latest project? Reading in the homes of farmers, who are naturally open to discussion and stories...
These encounters often ended in large tables, where neighbours and friends would join us. These were moments of rare intensity, which my book recounts, a testimony to rural life.
Today, I like to focus on a place, on the present.
After living in the Aubrac, working for years with Philippe Bras, a great lover of eatabe herbs, a whole philosophy and a creative parenthesis by the way, not to mention my internship with the ethnobotanist and writer François Couplan, I refocused on Uzès, my pied à terre, my rear base, so to speak, where I can recharge my batteries before my next excursions.
"Poetry is a bit like tracing your own path... I found myself with my writing.
How do you choose the subjects of your reports? What is it about the world that tickles you the most and makes you choose a particular destination?
"I remember the boreal belt and the life of the Inuit. An incredible life, where eating, dressing, having a family takes on a whole new dimension in these extreme landscapes. Witnessing is part of my ideal, although the people of these regions prefer to remain isolated, not seeking what they see as an appropriation of their culture.
"You defy something when you go to the cold countries".
This is a bit like what happened with my book on Les nuits de Lozère.
For my book In the Mouth of the Sky, I focused on the work of a Danish poet. The editor of this book is a champion of photography, who sees it as a kind of language, of writing. I met him at a fair in Aix-en-Provence. He created a collection for my project, ad hoc for this kind of project, the Light Motiv collection, centred on the testimony, the territory. This testimony is also revealed in the reading sessions that I run in media libraries and other libraries".
Sandrine Cnudde in a few dates
-First photographic report in 1987, landscape architect in 1994, garden guide for the chef Michel Bras in Laguiole on the Aubrac plateau in 1996, arrived in Uzès in 1999...., full-time artist since 2006.
-2010: On my (Nor)way, in the country of the Norwegian poet Olav Hauge, a one-month walk around the village of Ulvik, a first collection of poems published by Editions Tarabuste in September 2012, Le vide et le reste.
From writing to books...
Le vide et le reste, a "poetic journey in the footsteps of the Norwegian poet Olav Hakonson Hauge", Habiter l'aube (2016) "a long night walk baptized by rain and fog on the (pre)historical lands of her late father's family, dear to her childhood", Dans la gueule du ciel (2018) on an Inuit community in Greenland.
"The wind comes back with the right answers"... Olav Hauge
"I am also planning a book about the Norman explorer Dumont d'Urville (1790/1842), author of three round-the-world voyages and a great lover of science, especially botany. His memoirs, completed by one of his close collaborators, take us along with him on his captivating expeditions.
Did you know that?
The French Dumont d'Urville Station (DDU) is named after the admiral who was the first to set foot in Antarctica in 1840.
It was inaugurated in 1956 on Petrels Island in Terre Adélie, named after his wife Adèle.
Before each walk, each expedition, one must first nourish the spirit and know how to rely on the past to continue the journey. Once the subject has been chosen, you have to immerse yourself in the place through reading, carry out a survey of the place, study maps, toponymy, ethnology, tales, which are so precious in order to capture a little of the soul of the people living in the territory to be explored.
It is important not to forget to keep a large bibliography and to share it in each book, as a link between the past and the present.
In addition to this, I wanted to communicate my attachment to words in another way. This is how the bimonthly magazine of photography and poetry Vinaigrette (2020) was born, in the form of a small envelope waiting for you in your mailbox. A fun and different format, the participation of an author, a photographer, who brings his own vision of the world".
Sandrine Cnudde, it is also
Residencies, as was the case at the Jardin des Panrées in the Vosges in 2021. There was also the one organised with the Association l'Antre Lieux in the Vaucluse, for the project "A travers vignes", an adventure carried out "in the company of the sound creator Yann Magnan and the BTS students of the Lycée viticole of Orange" in 2022. A most enriching partnership and intervention.
Many thanks to Sandrine Cnudde for her time.
Want to know more? Find Sandrine Cnudde on her blog.