Arles, summer 2019. We decide to spend a few days in the luminous second homeland of Van Gogh. The ancient Roman city is situated on the edge of the French Camargue, a place evoking immediately in the imaginary of the horse lover herds of greys galloping on beaches while throwing their white manes wildly into the air. I, on the other hand, wander around the labyrinthine streets of Arles, which are swarming with foreigners coming together for the photography festival. A right turn after the Vincent Van Gogh foundation and I enter to lose myself in the Actes Sud library, in the smell of paper, in the expanses of books. I come across a yellow cover with a contemporary design that shows the negative printed image of a boy with his white horse: CRIN – BLANC, ou the invention of the Camargue. This is the title in French.
The invention of the Camargue is often attributed to the multi-faceted Denys Colomb de Daunant. Writer, poet, photographer, director and manadier known for having inspired and co-written the film Crin-Blanc (1952) directed by Albert Lamorisse. Immortalizing Crin-Blanc, he gave the Camargue its identity: that of a wilderness area in which herds of small white horses live in freedom in huge salty areas.
The image of Crin-Blanc goes further. It marks that passage in which the horse, from a working animal, becomes a friend of man and a unique companion of fabulous rides. It happens in the 1960s, thanks to the immense success of the film Crin-Blanc around the world, after its well-deserved recognition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953.
If today it is possible to gallop on the endless expanses of this marvelous land it is thanks to Denys Colomb de Daunant, the first to create a hotel for horsemen in this mythical place, with the intent to bring riders out of the clubs to live far more significant emotions in the midst of nature.
Thanks to the family archives, and in particular to the important photographic collection left by Denys Colomb de Daunant, the book traces the course of this original and free character, and shows us how his legacy was decisive in the manufacture of the Camargue as a land of freedom.
Written by Sylvie Brunel and Florian Colomb De Daunant (indeed the son of Denys), the book can be purchased here. If you don’t speak French, never mind, the images speak for themselves.
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