Art Souvenir d’un Futur, the photographic project by Laurent Kronental
Photographyphotography

Souvenir d’un Futur, the photographic project by Laurent Kronental

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Giulia Guido

It was the ’50s when in order to address the housing crisis, the arrival in large urban centers of foreign immigrants and not only and respond to new needs for comfort, the so-called “Grands Ensembles” were born around Paris. These are large housing centers characterized by a modernist design that from their construction to date have gone through several phases.

At the beginning, their monumentality brought with it a dream, a symbol of recovery from the war and an unstoppable modernization. Over time, however, all the flaws of these places became evident – the distance from the city centers, the few connections, the lack of places dedicated to public life – and gradually they became semi-fatiguing places, evidence of a future that never happened.

Laurent Kronental
Lucien, 84, Les Espaces d’Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014

A few years ago, French photographer Laurent Kronental was, to say the least, fascinated by the “Grands Ensembles” around Paris, so much so that he dedicated an entire project to them. “Souvenir d’un Futur” is the result of 4 years of exploration among these living centers, from “Les Damiers” in Courbevoie to “Les Tours Aillaud” in Nanterre, from the PavéNeuf and the Espaced’Abraxas in Noisy-le-Grand to the Cité Curial-Cambrai in the 19th arrondissement.

But the melancholy title reveals something else.

Laurent Kronental
Le Pavé Neuf, Noisy-le-Grand, 2015

In fact, the lens of his 4×5 camera, in addition to capturing the forms of the architecture, also focuses on the faces of those who live there and who, like them, have in a certain sense been abandoned: the elderly.

The link between environment and man could not be stronger and clearer: the buildings that once represented the future are now living a period of degradation, forgotten by society and, sometimes, waiting to be demolished to make room for something new. With bitterness in our mouths, we can only admit that this is exactly what happens to most elderly people, forced to live in a society that is increasingly focused on young people and that often leaves behind, forgets its oldest representatives.

In “Souvenir d’un Futur” this feeling of abandonment and oblivion is underlined by several technical and stylistic choices: Laurent Kronental decided to shoot early in the morning, with empty streets and no people around to give a greater feeling of desolation; he used a 4×5 camera that gave him the possibility to use the tilt-shift technique, perfect for photographing buildings and capturing all the monumentality of architecture; he deliberately excluded young people – although they too live in the “Grands Ensembles” – to leave room for the real protagonists of these places.

Laurent Kronental
Joseph, 88, Les Espaces d’Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014

And so, through the shots of Laurent Kronental we follow the signs of time on the facades of these evanescent buildings, but also on the faces of the people, in their gazes, sad and proud at the same time, also symbols of a generation that was young and perhaps continues to be so.

Follow Laurent Kronental on Instagram and go to his website.

Laurent Kronental
Les Tours Aillaud, Cité Pablo Picasso, Nanterre, 2014
Laurent Kronental
Les Orgues de Flandre, 19e arrondissement Paris, 2014
Laurent Kronental
José, 89, Les Damiers, Courbevoie, 2012
Laurent Kronental
Alain, 80, Les Damiers, Courbevoie, 2013
Laurent Kronental
Denise, 81, Cité du Parc et cité Maurice-Thorez, Ivry-sur-Seine, 2015
Laurent Kronental
Jacques, 82, Le Viaduc et les Arcades du Lac, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, 2015
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Written by Giulia Guido
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