Souvenir d'un Futur photographed by Laurent Kronental is a vibrant tribute to senior citizens stranded in the Grands Ensembles of the Paris region.
These grand housing estates, erected after the Second World War to house a population of rural refugees and foreign migrants, are peopled with a heterogeneous mix. They are often depicted by the media with images of insecurity and neglect. In sharp contrast with these clichés, and enthralled by their passé modernist appeal, Laurent Kronental has compassionately sought to pay tribute to these urban veterans who have aged there and who may well go down with them.
As today’s town planners have been assigned the task of obliterating the scars of the discarded Babel-like architecture, its original population is nearing the endgame, as if doomed to share the fate of the walls that have circumscribed their lives.
Souvenir d'un Futur is the product of four years of visits and exchanges. Panning through these nearly deserted and memory-fraught spaces, the photographer questions present indifference and prejudice towards elders. There is a touch of disenchanted and resilient melancholy in his photographs. The gigantic bulk of these abandoned vessels seems to be drifting away across a concrete ocean, while the unexpected presence of old people in this decor encourages a flicker of improbable hope, conveying the message that past illusions are not all dead yet. Using a 4x5” analog camera, the artist highlights the architectural geometry without stamping out its details. Beyond its dehumanizing blandness, its decaying concrete truthfully records the passage of time. In all its oversized solitude, this utopian decor reveals itself as a place to live.
Resignation and expectation blend on dignified faces and solitary spaces together with skepticism and confidence, incompleteness and plenitude. From these disturbing contrasts, life gushes out of the depths. These “monuments”, living memories of their time, personify the fragile strength of a youth having blindly aged.