The respect we feel for ruins has to do both with what is seen and what is not. They are like scars on the body. The terse, torn flesh we see contains the history of a wound that was itself a testimony to an event in our lives. The ruin is a trace and a testimony. There something was built, there it fell, there man acted before nature and time acted once more in their turn. We cannot view a landscape with ruins as we would view a virgin landscape, because in the latter case we are searching for unexplored purity while in the former we find traces of the human exploration of life, with its waves of creation and destruction. This received early acknowledgement from literature and painting, and in the last two centuries from photography and film.
Eduardo Nave’s magnificent frieze encapsulates the turbulent dignity of the trace that has been left behind. His passage through the light of Normandy is a memorable one. For someone like me, born on the shore of the Mediterranean with its sensorially contrasted colours, the light of the North always has a magical quality, the promise of a spiritual abstraction. Hence the value of the painting of Caspar David Friedrich, revolutionary at the time, with which Nave’s work is exquisitely related. The light of the North is especially difficult for someone on the hunt for images because it demands mettle, subtlety and the unfettered activity of the ‘inner eye’, the one which looks at the world from within and inwardly.
I have known few photographers who display such mastery in this dialogue with the light of the North as Eduardo Nave. I am certain that his inner eye is perfectly educated for the accomplishment of this complex mission. Nave’s Normandy, with its immobile vertigo, is a spiritual landscape. Sky, sea, cliffs and brief human silhouettes make up a purified meditation that each viewer can mirror in his or her own way.
Nevertheless, this meditation, so essential in the beauty of its forms, necessarily includes the trace of human events, and in this case the tragic occurrence of war. Nave’s Normandy is the light of the North, but it is also the blood and violence trapped in the wreckage that recalls the battle. Not the least of Nave’s merits is his ability to integrate the mysterious innocence of the space so harmoniously with the tragedy of a setting where the human drama has been played out.
In the photography of Eduardo Nave, light and memory converge to nourish an extraordinary poetics.