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3 July 2013

L’OCCITANE en Provence – Paulo Nozolino


A sunset, backstage at an opera house with its costumes and sets, a boat’s mainsail, wild and majestic animals, a child’s innocence, a field of lavender Here we have some photographic clichés, those that talented photographers avoid because it is so easy to create a touching image when the scene to be photographed is already wonderful.

Artists such as Penelope Umbrico and Corinne Vionnet have fun with this, playing with an accumulation of these sights photographed thousands of times in the same way. Why photograph the same subjects again and again?

The commission proposed to Paulo Nozolino was concerned with bringing a fresh vision of the over-photographed, of too-beautiful nature: a field of lavender in Provence.

Paulo Nozolino was invited to undertake the commission because he works solely in black and white. He therefore must capture our gaze without resorting to those saturated colours enhanced by intense sunlight that usually combine so successfully with lavender.

The challenge was total for this Portuguese photographer, a solitary poet of black on black, his images all silhouette and sensuality.

To satisfy his dark universe, his first desire was to find the creature that wreaks havoc, destroying the plant. He then focused on the way the landscape is faceted for the cultivation of lavender, searching for lines, conveying the majestic sun through shadows. Lastly, he went looking for essences, in particular in the stills of L’OCCITANE, which has made lavender its scientific spearhead, its brand image, and has now established a foundation to protect it.

The amazing result forces us to look again, and in a new way, at what we no longer wanted to see. The result is not just another document but, above all, a series of stunning photographs.

François Hébel


It suffices to say its name to conjure up a shimmering field of violet waves. The soothing image and perfume of lavender are integral to Provence’s landscape and to the history of L’OCCITANE. It is impossible to imagine the deterioration of this flower that has always survived the region’s harsh climate.

And yet the cultivation of lavender is currently facing two major problems: a decline induced by phytoplasma, a disease transmitted by leafhoppers, and climate change. In recent years, the production of lavender essential oil in Provence has been reduced by half*.

Today, L’OCCITANE reinforces its commitment to preserving and promoting the heritage linked to lavender. Apart from financing a foundation to support research programmes, L’OCCITANE strives to make the greater public aware of the decline of Provence’s emblematic flower. To do so, L’OCCITANE is a partner of the 2013 Rencontres d’Arles, participating in a project especially devised by Portuguese photographer Paulo Nozolino and devoted to lavender. This new vision of the icon of Provence’s flora will then travel around the world.

‘By choosing the black and white work of photographer Paulo Nozolino to recount the tale of lavender and its decline in our region, we wanted to give priority to the creative act of the artist’s incisive gaze in comparison with a visual accumulation that supposedly reproduces reality.’

Olivier Baussan

*Information source: CIHEF – Comité Interprofessionnel des Huiles Essentielles Françaises.

Prints by Antoine Agoudjian and the artist.

Laminating by Atelier Deuxième il, Paris. Framing by Circad, Paris.

In association with Olivier Baussan, founder of L’OCCITANE en Provence.

Exhibition venue: Palais de Luppé.