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With On That Day, photographers are invited to tell the story behind one of their photographs. Today, Claude Nori and a famous photograph taken one day in November 1995...

“On that day, Isabelle and I were in Biarritz. We had been talking for some time about leaving Paris, and we were looking for a place to settle down. We considered Italy, the vicinity of Menton [in the French Riviera], or Costa Brava [in Catalonia], but finally, I thought to myself: why don’t we go to Biarritz? I used to go there a lot as a teenager, and Isabelle was also familiar with the region. We drove around Biarritz and found a wonderful little town; we loved the atmosphere. As it often happens, it was a love at first sight, and the decision was made. I was on the hill by the townhall, looking over the beach: you could see the casino colonnade, I thought it was superb, very metaphysical. I said to myself: we should stay here. I wanted to see this sea every day, with its changing colors, the art-deco look of the shadows growing long.


© Claude Nori

So, on that day, we were sure we would settle down in Biarritz, but we were yet to find our little apartment. We booked a room for the weekend at the Plaza Hotel, which overlooks the Grande Plage. It was November, the sky was a bit overcast, there was some wind, the sun would peek through from time to time, and it felt great. We were really happy, in love, and we agreed this would be the place where we’d settle down. We decided to go out and snap some photos. Back then, that’s what it was like, the camera would awaken a sudden desire to pay tribute to the moment in time, to the happiness we felt, while today, everyone is always walking around with their smartphones. We wanted to take a photo that would capture this particular moment in our lives. Photographing happiness is often more difficult than photographing an event that is already happening, right there in front of you. You must capture the intangible: a glance, a gesture. It’s very hard to do, because these things are as evanescent as soap bubbles.

We are standing in the plaza and I begin to take photos of Isabelle while walking circles around her, and she around me. Like in many of my images, I was trying to have one main subject, and then another one in the background. Here, Isabelle is in the foreground, and in the background, there is a woman passing by, entering the field of view from the left. I love it when you have a sense of something happening in the background, which adds to the story, so my photos seem like frames from a film, like a photogram. When I took this photo, it was really like shooting a reel about her. I was revolving around her while trying to make beautiful pictures. And yet, the image is curiously constructed. Isabelle is in front of the column while I would have liked it better if she were away from it. Then she is right in the center of the image, while generally I never frame things in the middle; but here, it works, and it’s as if subconsciously I had tried to say that Isabelle is the heart of it all.”

By Claude Nori

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