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Deserted landscapes captured when the sun sets or rises… A deceptive calm, as it is the road where Grace Kelly, Helmut Newton, Jackson Pollock, and even James Dean died in an accident. Below, an interview with Christophe Rihet on Road to Death, a strange and fascinating series.

Tell us about the series you’re showing in Arles.

A few years ago, I embarked on a long journey that lead me all around the United States and Europe. I wanted to photograph places where famous, mythic figures had died. An accidental and violent death with crushed vehicles, crashed motorcycles, planes lost at sea, losses of control… I meticulously searched for the exact spots where the accidents happened. Each photo was taken at dawn or dusk. Above all, I hoped to show a landscape where an accident had occurred and the opposition between the calm of the space and its violent history. But also, to see what the last sights of the people who died were at this spot, to try to understand their state of mind at the instant and impact of their deaths.

How did you have the idea to make this series?

I had the idea during a trip to Big Sur, on the road that brought me closer to the spot where I made a series of photos. I passed by route 46, where James Dean was killed– no sign of an official memorial. However, fans took over the space, as if pushed by a need to represent what mattered to them, the icon that was James Dean for an entire generation, the myth that still continues today.This is when I started working on accidents.  The series is comprised of twenty-seven images.

How has photography changed your vision of the world?

Photography has taught me patience and contemplation. I love people, humans, the traces they leave along their way. There are a lot of traces and residue, I like to identify them. Photography helps me understand the world in which we live, and helps me love it.

Interview by Sophie Bernard

Christophe Rihet, Road to Death
Rencontres d’Arles
From July 3 through September 24, 2017
Maison des Peintres, Arles

Christophe Rihet, Cross Roads
Published by Antoine de Beaupré
27 optional covers
39 euros