Fluffy Clouds, a series of 75 images on the close surroundings of nuclear power plants, is part of my ongoing reflection on the environment and our ways of dealing with our still-growing dependency on energy. The title conveys a widely-held picturesque view: that of a beautiful landscape beneath a peaceful sky. The beauty of the sites and the carefree attitude of the people who inhabit these decors are contrasted in each image with the presence of a nuclear power station. Beneath a dazzling sky, another aspect of the landscape is brought to light. We are in an observed area, faced with an industry that is subject to heavy criticism for the risks, the pollution and the costs that it generates.
To shoot the Fluffy Clouds series, starting in 2003, I travelled to nuclear power plants in France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and Spain at various times of the year. The series unfolds from spring to winter, which allows the different images to be viewed in a linear time frame and the various landscapes to be linked to each other. I believe that this cyclical approach is a better way of presenting the subject of nuclear power than an inventory, which would have been controlled, for example, by geographical and border criteria, and which would be obsolete in the event of an accident.
In Fluffy Clouds, the nuclear reactors are nested in the landscape, and, in a terrifying way, appear to be inoffensive fragments of nature. People are enjoying leisure activities in their immediate surroundings without a second thought: playing golf and tennis, fishing in neighboring ponds, swimming in the sea or growing vegetables in communal gardens and fields, all within sight of the nuclear power stations. Many of the pictures convey the beauty of nature, wherein the nuclear stations themselves become “scenic,” as in the picture of Beznau in Switzerland. As the real threat has slipped into the invisible, I try to show how people are growing oblivious to the inherent threat linked to nuclear energy facilities.
The announcement of an imminent catastrophe is hiding in all these images, which not only carry the traces of human intervention on nature, but show how much we have adapted to those deformations and how we accept most of them. Even though the recent catastrophe in Fukushima revealed the devastating potential of nuclear power stations, triggering a temporary crisis and heated debates, the United States has just announced a plan to build nuclear plants in the state of Georgia.
For a long time, we have been in an advanced stage of assimilation of nature, and now we have entered a time of profound alienation of nature—a trend that will not be easily reversed.