Sandrine Hermand-Grisel: Sea Sketches
My grandfather lived on the east coast of Florida for most of my life. We’d visit him there, the rough Atlantic pounding up against the steep beach. The sky was rarely blue, but instead swirling with grey clouds, always heavy with humidity. I liked the way it felt, like the air would crush me from its sheer weight and density. The wind could blow me away like the sand moving in sheets down the beach and disappearing in the water. The birds hung effortlessly in the gale and stared down at us as they surveyed the landscape.
When Sandrine Hermand-Grisel told me she had a new series from Florida, I thought of this vision from my past. Then, Sandrine sent Sea Sketches to me, and I felt a calmness that didn’t relate to my experience with Florida. I recalled a time at dusk driving across the peninsula to the west coast and seeing those white sand beaches in the setting sun, feeling the softness of that sand and also the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico. How placid, and quiet, and still it was. Where was the raging sea out of a Walt Whitman poem? Where was the feeling that if you didn’t dig your feet deep into the sand you were going to be torn off the beach by wind and waves? This was a different world, one unknown to me, and I wondered at my grandfather’s preference for the other side. The changing sky was enough to make me sit for a while.
Sandrine Hermand-Grisel must have felt the same way judging by her images. There is a texture to the pictures, like paintings from the past, the color palette muted, the sand just lit by the disappearing light, the grasses motionless against that quiet sky: melon, peach, red, black, blue, orange, sigh. Just sigh and stay another day and wait to see what gift you shall receive. In this current climate with so many changes in our world, it is nice just to sit with these pictures of the changing horizon and breathe and relax. These moments are different than Joel Meyerowitz’s “Bay/Sky” photographs taken with an 8×10 view camera from his house on Cape Cod. Those pictures are brilliant and momentous and also brooding and ominous. That is the Atlantic and the wild unknown of an ocean and a sky that can blow in and surprise you, shock you, make you speechless. Hermand-Grisel’s seascapes are of another realm entirely, not just another state and another body of water, but the very atmosphere is different. As if she wasn’t just a thousand miles south but on the other side of the world. The images are spherical which sets them apart as if you are viewing these scenes through a spyglass, a secret place revealed. I want to be there now, forgetting politics and the coming winter and stresses of work and the onset of my son’s adolescence and all the rest of it. I just want to burrow into the warm sand that feels like confectioner’s sugar and looks like a 19th century painting through Sandrine’s lens, and just be a witness to the tranquility. It’s not often that pictures transport you, but these have done so for me, and I relish the peacefulness, especially at the end of the day. – Ann Jastrab
Born and raised in Paris France, Sandrine Hermand-Grisel fell in love with photography at an early age, but it was only after obtaining a degree in International Law that she decided to dedicate her life to her real passion. Influenced by her late mother’s sculptures and her husband’s paintings and films, she worked on several personal projects before her series Nocturnes was recognized in 2005 by Harry Gruyaert, Bertrand Despres, and John Batho for the Prix Kodak de la Critique Photographique. In the footsteps of her grandfather, who was a filmmaker in the US Army during WWII, she moved with her family to the United States in 2006 and began experimenting landscape photography with her series Somewhere and On the road. At present, she’s working on a new series of landscapes called Sea Sketches. Some of her earlier work can be seen at her website, www.hermandgrisel.com.
Sandrine has exhibited nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at the Carrousel du Louvre (Paris, France), Rayko Photo Center (San Francisco, USA), Maison de la Culture (Luxemburg), City Hall, SFAC Galleries (San Francisco, USA), Europ’art’ (Geneva, Switzerland), Espace Bontemps (Gardanne, France), Centre Iris (Paris, France), Fotofever Photography Art Fair (Brussels, Belgium), Le Pavé d’Orsay (Paris, France), Viewpoint Gallery (Sacramento, USA), Galerie Garby’s (Paris, France), A Smith Gallery (Johnson City, TX). In 2006, she received a special mention at the Prix Kodak de la critique photographique led by Harry Gruyaert (Magnum photos) and since then has won several contests including International Photographer Awards, Artslant and PX3.
Sandrine Hernand-Grisel is also the founder and editor of All About Photo (www.all-about-photo.com), an encyclopedic website devoted to promoting photographic resources such as galleries, exhibitions, museums, schools and institutes, and many other contacts useful to photographers. All About Photo also, and perhaps most importantly, seeks out and promotes promising photographic talent.
Sea Sketches – 2016
Since I was a little girl my parents insisted that my brother and I accompany them almost every weekend to see an exhibition, a museum or an historic house. What was excruciating at first slowly became a real pleasure. Thanks to them, I had the privilege to see incredible exhibitions both in Paris and London where I grew up. Depending on my age and moods at the time, I favored a century, a movement, a painter…
It was love at first sight when I discovered “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich. In the foreground, a young man stands upon a rocky precipice with his back to the viewer. He overlooks a landscape covered in a thick sea of fog. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, the subtle colors, the calm and yet the movement that came from the wind.
I perceived the character as content and in harmony with nature and I wondered if one day I would find my perfect place… and many years later, I did. On the west coast of Florida lies Ana Maria, a quaint barrier island nestled in the Gulf of Mexico. The water is warm and turquoise, the sand is white. Well preserved, the birds and turtles come here to nest while the respectful tourists lie on the sand every night to witness the incredible sunsets. Time is suspended.
With the romantic painters Turner and Friedrich in mind, I captured a glimpse of Ana Maria, its light, its beaches, its movement, its unleashed elements… I hope you will immerse yourself in my Sea Sketches “paintings” and escape with me, even for the length of a sigh, from the harsh realities of life and share my happy place.
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