Sparks Fly Between Brash Neon and an Ancient Mountainside

Nicolas Rivals, Paris-based photographer and member of photography collective Prisme Noir, takes his audience on a nocturnal pilgrimage across Spain in his new series La Linea Roja. Neon red light installations make for a glowing collection of silent and enigmatic visual flashpoints along the way: are they memorials? warnings? hauntings?

La Linea Roja
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La Linea Roja

The series captures moments of modern mystery, probing the torrid relationship between mankind and nature. Eschewing the limitations of form, Nicolas’ work occupies an uncanny space between the concrete and the abstract, forcing recognisable forms into unconventional contexts; in the case of La Linea Roja, it’s the acid punch of neon modernity swaddled in craggy mountains
and timeless caves of rural Spain.

The result is the birth of a new coherence, a red connecting line, between mankind and Mother Nature. These lines are placed across the rocks in perfect complement with the natural forms, both spatially and in terms of the soft red glow diffused across the rock surface in the dead of the Spanish night. Nicolas’ eagerness to capture these quiet and perfectly composed moments is another triumph of working in tandem with nature, limiting his shooting hours to the cover of darkness, and celebrating the necessary disappearance of the dreamlike images come daybreak: “unreal scenes that nevertheless existed, all the better to disappear in the morning”.

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We caught up with Nicolas to hear more about these mysterious red lines…

The Plus: What were the difficulties involved in setting up the light installations on the journey?

Nicolas Rivals: Well I don’t know where to start, everything was complicated.

1. The size of the gear : you can’t see it, but all the structures are more than 3 meters long; it was difficult to move them and fix them in place.

2. The construction : as I said, the structure was so big, and we needed to build everything on site. You can imagine the difficulty.

3. The access: I chose the places for their beauty, not for their accessibility. Some places were really difficult to access: we needed to walk kilometers with all the gear and structures (20-30kg), climb into a waterfall in abseiling descent…

4. The night and everything that come with it: humidity, the difficulty of travelling…the temperature, some nights was so cold (-8°) that my camera was freezing.

But in the end we had some very good and unforgettable moments, and photographs which I’m very proud of. So it was worth it.

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TP: What attracted you to the locations that you chose?
NR:
I looked for places that I could fuse with my lights to create something meaningful. It was also a question of experimentation: for one good location, there were many unsuccessful ones.

TP: What about the colour red best chanelled the ideas that you wanted to put across?
NR:
Red is a special colour in nature: it’s uncommon, a danger sign, it’s an aggressive and attractive colour. It’s also – as one of the primary colours along with blue and green – ubiquitous in nature. And, of course, it’s a colour I love at the moment. I don’t know exactly why, but I’m attracted by it.

La Linea Roja

TP: The shoot seemed to demand that you work at night – were there any other ways in which you found the project connecting you with nature?
NR:
I don’t know, maybe there are many other ways, but this one was the most interesting for me. It was the only connection I could explore which allowed me to find the space to create something new. I’m not the first photographer to work in this area, but I did contribute something.

TP: How does this work build on your previous, similarly quite abstract, series?
NR:
In my conceptual works I’ve worked on stability, with rigorous straight lines, circles, and squares. But as you see in the series some pictures are more “free” in terms of the shapes. Who knows, maybe it’s the start of something new, a crack in my rigid and geometric mind.

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La Linea Roja
La Linea Roja

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