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23 July 2015

Ambroise Tézenas, Rencontres d’Arles 2015



Ambroise Tézenas evokes places marked by tragedy that now have their own guided tours. This phenomenon, known as ‘dark tourism’, is rooted in our fascination with the human capacity for evil, as well as our desire to see the aftermath of horror.

Though related, dark tourism is not the same as memorial tourism, which aims to inspire reflection on history and a kind of meditation; it is more like a morbid perversion thereof. Specialised travel agencies have been formed to offer holidaymakers eager for new sensations the opportunity to visit sites marked by disaster and tragedy. Earthquakes, tsunamis, industrial accidents, devastated or poverty‐stricken areas are ‘destinations’ whose discovery feeds the ambiguous curiosity of a growing number of enthusiasts. even when camouflaged by cultural alibis, voyeurism, the appeal of the macabre, and terror are at the heart of this price‐tagged darkness.

Addressing the questions raised by this new reality, Ambroise Tézenas undertook a long investigation using a detailed protocol he developed with Professor John J. Lennon (University of Glasgow), a specialist in tourist industry issues: after selecting a dozen representative sites, he signed up with tour operators in order to enter into the average tourist’s experience. Out of concern for accuracy, he was careful to photograph only what was shown to visitors. from the oradour‐sur‐Glane mas‐ sacre of 1944 to the ruins left by the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, Ambroise Tézenas travels through the 20th century by way of Cambodia, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Lebanon. ‘Here, we are gawking at a nightmare’, he sums it up.


Publication: Tourisme de la désolation, Actes Sud, 2014; I Was Here, Dewi Lewis publishing, 2014.

Prints by Janvier, paris.
Framing by plasticollage and Circad, paris.

Exhibition venue: Grande halle, parc des Ateliers.