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This article is taken from PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January - February 2018.

Black and White
Photography & Vulnerability
Iain Bamforth
THE SPANIARD, wrote Stendhal in Memoirs of a Tourist, is ‘not a copy of anyone. He will be the last original to exist in Europe.’

Boswell and Rousseau, in their time, had said more or less the same thing about Corsica, another land that time forgot. In this island of rugged and Homerically primitive landscapes, hitherto impervious to the corrupt societies to the north and east, lived the last living specimens of the state of nature. A particularly energetic Corsican by the name of Napoleon Buonaparte would not forget what Rousseau had predicted: ‘I have a certain premonition that this one little island will astonish Europe.’

In fact, the last aboriginals in Europe were probably the Sardinians (though a later case could be made for the Albanians, hidden away in their communist oddity). August Sander went to photograph Sardinia on the suggestion of his friend Ludwig Mathar in 1927: their thirty days of travel around the island were his longest trip away from Germany. No longer did an artist have to travel to Polynesia to find exoticism; it was there, right in the centre of the Mediterranean. The two Germans had perhaps come across D.H. Lawrence’s travel book on the island, Sea and Sardinia, published in 1921, which he had visited in the belief that it was ‘outside the circuit of civilisation’; Lawrence was chagrined to find – for all that he praised the ‘magical look’ of the island – that he had arrived too late. Civilisation had done its ...

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