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During the summer of 2016, the French photographer, Jean-Luc Feixa, explored two natural wonders: the Pic de Cagire and the Desert of Bardenas Reales. In his suggestively mythical images, soft mist competes against harsh, dry desert dust. Even so, the pictures convey the apparently harmonious state of the environment in its rawest form.

LFI: What draws you to nature; what do landscapes mean to you?
Jean-Luc Feixa: I grew up in the middle of nature, in an area located at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. However, it is an environment that I left almost 10 years ago to live in the city centre of Brussels (Belgium). I have photographed a lot of urban spaces and continue to do so; but, for several years now, I have felt the need to return to the great natural landscapes, especially in the area of my childhood. I don't know why, but the feeling of being there with just my camera, in the middle of the mountains or a desert, is a very stimulating photographic experience.

As a photographer, what fascinates you most about the French-Spanish border?
I was especially captivated by the extreme contrasts, in term of landscape and in term of weather and temperature, that exist between these two territories that face each other. Bathed in mist, even in summer, the French side of the mountains offered a green scenery with endless peaks. In contrast, in Spain, the desert revealed a very different landscape, similar in appearance to Arizona, with reliefs, very particular colours, dust and sand as far as the eye can see. All this under a biting sun. How are such differences possible within such close proximity?

How can mist and dust be reconciled photographically – and, despite their differences, could their boundaries be fluid perhaps?
I think the two elements share some similarities in terms of textures. I will say however, that mist has a much softer and cottony feel, while the desert dust is harsh, arid. In the desert, it happened that I was caught in mini dust storms, and, strangely, the effect for the photography was very different to the effect of mist, because the dust seemed to make the place disappear, rather than bathe it in a mysterious veil. I prefer the mist, as I obviously find it much more poetic.

You've been shooting with an M6: how has it suited your work and landscape photography?
I've been working with my Leica M6 for several years. It's a life companion that adapts to all situations. It was a natural choice for this project, because it is simple, terribly efficient, and I am totally aware of its advantages and limits. Working with film in these very different areas, requires knowing your camera well and having a reliable tool. Moreover, I spent several weeks surveying these locations, and I didn't want to overload myself with batteries and other kinds of unnecessary problems.

One also recognizes the loneliness of nature in your pictures: living creatures only rarely get in front of your camera. Are you waiting for those moments?
It is certain that solitude is very present in this series. Without doing any “barstool psychology”, I did this project at a very complicated personal moment and this trip was an occasion for deep inner reflection. I walked a lot and rarely retraced my footsteps. Unlike my other projects where I take more time to compose my images, taking care of lines and contrasts, Mist and Dust was created following the rhythm of the walk. This was, for example, the case with this mountain goat, a diabolical black coming out of nowhere, like a surreal apparition in the middle of this cotton landscape. I was very lucky. (Interview: Katja Hübner)

All images on this page: © Jean-Luc Feixa
Equipment: Leica M6 Summicron-M 35 f/2 ASPH.
© Jean-Luc Feixa

Jean-Luc Feixa

Jean-Luc Feixa from Toulouse (France), moved to Brussels in 2013. He used to work as a press photographer and journalist, before deciding to focus on his own photo projects. He works today as a press adviser, and is a member of the Salamandre artists collective. His work has been exhibited in Belgium, France and the United Arab Emirates. His latest book, Strange Things Behind Belgian Windows, was published by Luster Editions in March 2020.

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