Laurent Kronenthal: the lives of senior citizens in large housing projects
I missed an incredible exhibition recently on my trip to Paris. It finished just one week before I arrived much to my disappointment. I believe it is worth talking about. A French photographer Laurent Kronenthal took a series of photos documenting the life of large housing projects in Paris. They were buildings built during a housing crisis between the 1950's and the 1980's and are now decaying buildings located in the city's suburban areas. In a statement about the project Kronenthal said "Marked by the passing of time, these massive, grey buildings, like their elder residents, bear the signs of long lives and yet, in these wrinkled faces and cracked walls, in the energy of the bodies and of the facades, emerges the pride and pulse that we thought had disappeared".
It is well worth taking a look at these fascinating photos. The architecture juxtaposed with the images of the elders for me highlighted how their long lives have many stories to be told. When I hear the term the Forgotten Generation I actually think of what we are missing out on by not taking the time to find out about their stories.
Souvenir d’un Futur’ is a photo series by young photographer Laurent Kronental that documents the life of senior citizens living in the ‘Grands Ensembles’ – large housing projects that were built around the edges of Paris after WW2 to accommodate the growing urban population.
Individually, the images are beautifully architectural in nature, highlighting the utopian modernist designs that were widespread in Paris between 1950 and 1980. However, when viewed as a series, they become a powerful melancholic force that evokes thoughts around ageing, memory, legacy and decay.
An initial fascination with modernist architecture spurred on the project, however it evolved in a different direction as Kronental became drawn to capturing the lives of the urban veterans who lived and aged amongst these colossal surroundings. He felt a need to examine their living conditions and shed light on the strength of this sometimes-neglected generation. Marked by the passing of time, the massive grey buildings, like their elder residents, bear the signs of long lives. Yet in the wrinkled faces and cracked walls, in the stoic energy of the bodies and facades, emerges a pride and pulse that conveys a conflicting mix of scepticism, confidence and resignation. Exposing these unsung suburban areas and people is a means to reveal the poetry of ageing – in both human and environmental form. Laurent Kronental’s photo series is part of the upcoming European Emerging Photographers Festival, an exhibition in Paris showcasing the work of 50 photographers, taking place from March 26th to June 26th.
[Images courtesy of Laurent Kronental.]
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