French photographer Laurent Kronental reframes the mundane as magnificent in his latest series ‘Les Yeux des Tours’. Confined by the walls of the Tours Aillaud, the viewer is invited to gaze through the porthole windows which frame snippets in time of the Parisian suburbs.
In his previous series ‘Souvenir d’un Futur‘, Laurent photographed the senior citizens of the French ‘Grands Ensembles’, paying tribute to the often-marginalized generation. For ‘Les Yeux des Tours’ the focus shifts from the inhabitants to the interiors and the wondrous views from the porthole windows of Les Tours Aillaud. Laurent explains that photographing from such heights is a method for satisfying a series of questions: Why such shapes? What can be seen from up there? Answers could only be found by indulging his curiosity. From his initial visit in 2011, Laurent recalls being impressed by the immense scale of the estate, explaining; “The facades immediately enthralled me…their exceptional aesthetics calling to mind an enigmatic military camouflage. I was extremely attracted by this singular area which clashes with the surrounding landscape.”
Les Tours Aillaud is a group of 18 residential towers located in Nanterre, Paris. Conceived by Émile Aillaud and built from 1973-1981, they were commissioned in response to the post-war housing shortage. Aillaud intended to stray from straight lines and regularities while the artist Fabio Rieti adorned the towers in an extensive colored mosaic. This approach intended to evoke modernity and innovation and has resulted in a nostalgic timelessness with otherworldly elements.
Spanning the course of two years, the achievement of the desired shots depended on patience, perseverance, and empathy. Laurent reminisces, “I had sometimes a single opportunity to penetrate an apartment. Some rare weather conditions do not come up twice and the opportunity should be seized. I once slept at a family’s place several days in a row to photograph the atmosphere at dawn.” In Laurent’s images, the inside and outside seem to resonate with one another. As the cool haze from a dusky sky envelopes a room, the artificial and natural color palettes unknowingly complement one another. There are aesthetic contrasts regarding the inhabitants interior design and the backdrop of the urban skyline, and there are temporal ones — dependent on seasons and light.
All images evoke a distinctive personality igniting the viewer’s imagination as to who inhabits each space. Upon his first visit to each apartment, Laurent recalls being sucked in by the inhabitant’s universe, intrigued by their unique spaces. Laurent sheds light on this dual focus, explaining that he is fascinated “both by the architectural venture as much as by its underlying utopian paradigm, I wish to invite the spectator to discover the intimacy of the housing and to find clues of human presence within this exceptional Grand Ensemble.”
Series “Les Yeux des Tours” (2015 – 2017), Tours Aillaud, Nanterre, France. © Laurent Kronental