Trained during her studies at the Estienne school in the practice of printmaking, Léa Habourdin, 37, has always liked to “get her hands dirty”, she says. Here she is served with the project she is presenting at the Rencontres d’Arles, entitled “Images-Forêts: worlds in extension”. Armed with her juice extractor, she put a whole bunch of plants through a machine in order to extract the photosensitive substance chlorophyll, which she used to make images called “anthotypes” (from the Greek anthos, “flower”) ). An old and arduous process, which requires days, sometimes weeks, of exposure to the sun. “In November, there is no more light, it is over for the anthotype. It forces you to work at the rhythm of the world, and to be humble as an artist. »

The anthotype has another flaw: it cannot be fixed. The exposed image ends up irretrievably fading and disappearing. For her exhibition, Léa Habourdin has therefore designed small shutters to protect the images, which visitors will have to open and then close. “I like the idea that the viewer will destroy the image by looking at it,” explains the artist. A bit like the walker who, by visiting it, damages the forest he admires…”

Since her beginnings, the photographer has been passionate about the “wild” and the fascination it generates in humans. This book lover dedicated one to survivalists, those people who train to resist the end of the world. She now immerses herself in primary forests, original spaces that have now become rare on our planet shaped by man. So rare that there are none left in France. For lack of anything better, the photographer went to photograph four “natural forests”, in the Vosges or even Queyras, in the Hautes-Alpes. These exceptional places, highly sensitive and protected, untouched for more than sixty years, are forbidden to visitors. Except to scientists: it was by taking advantage of one of their expeditions that the photographer was able to enter it, not without having pledged never to reveal its location.

Madder, reseda, orange thyme…

These forests are distinguished by their quantity of dead wood, which can be seen in her images in the form of trunks, on the ground or on the ground: “30% of the trees are dead, explains Léa Habourdin. It looks gloomy, but inside it’s a bug party! This is how soils regenerate. Moreover, for trees, aging is positive, old trees have a low mortality rate, unlike young ones. It is the opposite in humans, where senescence is something very negative. »

In addition to the anthotypes, Léa Habourdin shows these wild forests in the form of serigraphs in pastel colors, images whose natural pigments have been made with plant species. For this, she called on Michel Garcia, who cultivates a garden of tinctorial plants in Brittany. The madder gave it a delicate pinkish grey, the reseda a very pale green yellow, the orange thyme a subtle melon colour. Soft hues which, according to the photographer, “agree with the imagination of primary forests, which always make you dream”.

She insists, however, on the “revolutionary” nature of wild forests: “For an individual or a community, choosing to keep a space that does not bring in anything, in the name of biodiversity, is a very difficult decision. The initiative is easier to pass on if there is also an animal species to protect, such as the capercaillie, this bird that has become “the panda of the Vosges”. At her level, Léa Habourdin is thinking about a future artistic project around the creation of a space without any human intervention: “Find a place, and leave it alone. A very simple idea, and could not be more complicated.