There is an incredible feeling of calmness, a unique sense of being one with oneself and with nature, which emits from the small series of photographs by Magdéleine Ferru titled "Sans Altre Mue". The series, while bearing the notion of "change" in its title, seems to be about an arrival, the reaching of an almost mystical unity contained in the photographic images. The series of photographs takes the viewer to a secret place, where the nudity of the female body is the only plausible way of being and where any notion of voyeurism – usually so inherent to photography in many ways – is wonderfully absent.
The series works with a rhythm of proximity and distance, where the photographs with greater distance between the camera and the woman give the feeling of stronger intimacy and the close-ups seems more abstract and in that sense also somewhat more distant. But this is not the only paradox inherent in this series. The presence of nature is strong throughout the series, while in fact nature can only be seen in a very limited way. It is there, very much so, but it is often only indicated and less shown. Indeed a great thing to say about photographs, if one comes to think of it.
Speaking about a unity with nature indicates that the constructed opposition between human beings and concepts of "nature" or "environment" are no longer necessary or useful – or never were. Especially with the woman's hair and body in contact with water, plants and rocks we see those elements shifting shapes or changing roles: Is this the flow of water or of hair, is this the density of the green plants or the shape of the human body. Still, the light colour of the skin shines out against the darker tones of the earth and plants. It is an arrival, not a vanishing act.
Only few points remain that may be raised to discuss. When composing a series of photographs, we may look for conceptual unity, applying one formal approach to all photographs in a series. This can be considered the easier approach compared to the more daring effort to bring together in a series a set of photographs with quite different formal aspects – close and distant, specific and more abstract, different kinds of composition, etc. However with any series, but even more so with the latter approach, we should be extremely careful and strict with ourselves regarding the quality and strength of each individual image in the series. With the 2nd, 5th and 6th image in the series we might wish to reconsider them in critical comparison with the others.
Also might we ask with regard to the 5th image whether with such a diverse series it is really wise to apply too many different strategies of composing a series at one and the same time. The two images of the woman from a distance – number 4 and 5 – seem to open a new story, or – better – a new storyline, which is only indicated, just started and the dropped again somehow. Especially the serpent falls out of course, not merely because it is the only photograph where the woman is not visible, but also because of the strong symbolic charge. Even if the symbolic reading evoking the storyline from the "Book of Genesis" is not intended it can hardly be avoided and I would not be sure if it really supported the series as a whole.
There seems to be a certain tendency in the series towards abstraction, or – maybe clearer – reduction. This definitely adds to the appeal and strength of the series as well as of individual photographs in this case, but the exact handling of such reduction may be disputed. In some photographs – namely 1, 4, 5, and 6 – slightly more structure in the darker areas of the image might be worth considering. Such structure might not ruin the – presumably – desired reduction, but could enhance it. A little more structure to the green or the rocks would not contradict the quality observed in the beginning – that nature is more indicated and less shown. But it certainly is a matter of fine calibration in the end.
Finally, the works in this series from Magdéleine Ferru may be considered "still photographs" in a new and different sense of that term. Not "nature morte", but "nature vivante", is what we encounter here. The "stillness" they convey is the stillness achieved in viewing those photographs that, only when it sinks in, enables us to hear the voices of the personal self and – ultimately – of the greater self of nature.