Crowned by its medieval abbey, Mont St. Michel rises from a small, quasi-island, separated by one kilometer of waves from the mainland at high tide. A village, established in the Middle Ages, grew up below its fortified walls. Its ramparts and location repelled all assaults and the Mount became a symbol of French national identity.
I had to struggle to make an expressive interpretation of Mont St. Michel, because every shot I made of it looked just like a perfect post card. There is nothing wrong, of course, with a post card picture, but that is not what I try to make. (If I wanted post cards, I would buy them.) In fact, an earlier version of this image was just such a post card. It was well composed, well exposed, and showed viewers exactly what this famous historical landmark looked like. It was identical to this image in every respect but one – it did not have a tiny cloud hovering just behind the Abbey’s soaring steeple. That tiny cloud makes all the difference between a literal picture and an expressive picture. One small cloud in a vast blue sky is a scale incongruity. And to have it float directly behind the steeple atop the spiritual heart of France, is another incongruity. Not to mention a powerful symbol. Somebody up there must be watching over the Abbey today. Providing a bit of additional context for what I consider to be almost a supernatural moment, is the almost completely shadowed house on the left playing against the old stone wall on the right. The more I look into the blackness, and think of its symbolic meaning, the more I think of all of those dead souls who once lived in this haunting village. What had been a literal, descriptive post-card picture, now expresses an idea, and I believe expresses it well.