It was a wild, dangerous and unpredictable beast, capable of ravaging everything in his path. Impressively powerful, up to several kilometers wide with endless meanders winding through the valley, it was feared, respected and imbued with a mystical aura. Until the middle of the 19th century the bargemen sculpted religious crosses with the wood collected on the banks of the river, decorated with the instruments of the passion of Christ and put them at the prow of the boats to protect the crews of the convoy.
If it is one of the most powerful rivers in Europe, it has been heavily developed and engineered since the 19th century. These violent changes turned the Rhône into a bruised river; alternately dammed, shaped, corrected, corseted to tame its unpredictable nature and allow the development of cities in its wake. Until then largely stifled, it nevertheless today carries environmental issues through an ambitious ongoing restoration project with the reopening of secondary arms to give the river back a tiny fraction of what men took it.
In view of the developments built over the decades to make it navigable and a source of energy, the utilitarian imprint is still deep in the landscape and the scars persist. The once rich, lively and dynamic river has become a kind of water drainage channel, domesticated and navigable. Nearly twenty hydroelectric plants exploit its power through numerous dams and the four nuclear power stations that border it discharge their cooling waters, upsetting the balance of the aquatic environment. As hints of this exploitation, many architectures and utilitarian devices were grafted insidiously until making only one with the landscape. These in-between places are the theater of silent confrontation where function is disputed and where uncertainty remains.
Witness to the functionalization of the landscape, placed at the service of the nation, the current state of the Rhône is a mirror of the transformation of the territory. This series offers a wandering journey among the surroundings, the interstitial places of a river, exploring the symbols and questions raised by the intertwining of the life of a river with the habitat of Man. These images seem to lay the foundations of a theater, a silent theater, whose human presence is materialized only by traces and where temporality questions. A theater where each scene would suggest the elements of a new story, the beginnings of a story, the outline of a new chapter bringing out from these constrained places a new form of naturalness.
Romain Saccoccio, born in 1986, is a French photographer and architect from Rhone Valley and based in Paris.
Graduated in Architecture in 2010 and working as an architect in Paris, Romain Saccoccio is developing along his photographic work through personal projects in a narrative / documentary approach.
His photographic journey thrives on social, cultural and ecological themes that his dual practice allows him to explore. Driven by questions linked to the intertwining of architecture and landscape, his work explores areas of tension, in-between areas, confrontation where reality intersects with the symbolic.
© Text and pictures by Romain Saccoccio