In Defiance Of Stone
Nicole Herzog-Verrey is passionate about the mountains of her native Switzerland. This is very clear in viewing the results of her photographic encounter with Lebanon. The mineral world has captured her full attention. Her Lebanon is a land of stones, of “old stones” in the noblest sense of the phrase. Black & white accentuates this nobility and keeps any facile effects at bay. Matte, massive, majestic, these archeological blocks assert themselves with geological incontrovertibility. The only interlocutor Nicole Herzog-Verrey deems worthy of them is the sky: long cavalcades of clouds trace complex geometrical forms that echo the shapes of abandoned temples.
Only trees, impressively tall, might occasionally compete with stone. Fragile and alive, they rise in places where even the proudest columns have yielded to years of erosion. Humans, for their part, are far too small to stake a claim. If by chance a figure appears, the scale of proportions puts him back in his humble place. There are no characters here, only, from time to time, traces of presences, touching and ridiculous.
In Nicole Herzog-Verrey’s photographs, the contemporary world asserts itself in much the same way as antiquity: by its architecture. Their respective materials, however, have nothing to do with each other: gone are the solid quarry stones and precious marble blocks; in their place, scrap-iron scaffoldings and concrete skeletons leave us uncertain whether they are still under construction or already abandoned. Where the ancients used to build, the moderns camp. In telling us this, Nicole Herzog-Verrey’s photographs rigorously and elegantly express one of the paradoxes of Lebanon and its neighboring countries: the difficulty of creating a modern living environment and way of life when our visual memory is saturated with relics. In that regard, this attentive observer of glaciers is no stranger to the Middle East: living with the past is an experience similar to living with untouched nature — continuous defiance.
By Guillaume de Sardes