It all began in Calais, France’s largest maritime port and a city that could easily be visited by anyone arriving from the United States. There, on the outskirts of a refugee camp, Sanguinetti encountered “Le Gendarme sur la Colline” (“The Policeman on the Hill”), which gave its title to the broader series of photographs. This ambivalent figure, embodying at once security and fear, encapsulates the “subtle tensions between the old and the new” that Sanguinetti observed on her road trip across France. She subsequently travelled along the Normandy coast and to Marseilles, crossing France’s countryside, villages and cities along her way before ending her residency with a spell in Paris.
Sanguinetti’s approach to the project was not that of a documentary-maker, however. She rather offers an account of an intuitive voyage that often takes on dream-like dimensions. Her gaze alights upon evolving traditions, the unexpected poetry of the everyday and the apparent longevity of certain national archetypes. Whether children in costumes, jockeys, salesmen or actors, each portrait of the series results in a relationship, however fleeting, between the photographer and the strangers that she makes her subjects. The works exhibited at the Aperture Gallery and in the book published by Aperture on behalf of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès thus constitute an often mysterious oeuvre.
With Immersion, an annual programme of alternating residencies, exhibitions and publications dedicated to photographers, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès supports contemporary photography by enabling the creation, exhibition and publication of new work. On a yearly alternating basis, Immersion is open either to photographers based in France, who are mentored by a French professional as they create a new photographic work in the United States, or to photographers based in the United States, who are mentored by an Anglophone professional as they create a new photographic work in France. The mentor for this second edition was writer and photography curator Susan Bright.