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Work / Photography

Elsa Guillet’s enchanting depiction of “paradise” in Switzerland

Photographer Elsa Guillet has captured Riviera Vaudoise, an area near Lake Geneva in Switzerland. “It’s a thriving region that attracts many tourists and businesses, particularly known for its peacefulness and often associated with images of beautiful and exotic landscapes,” explains Elsa. “Famous and rich people have been moving here or coming on vacation since forever, and having grown up in the area, in my series I was able to combine a documentary approach with my personal experience and memories of the area.”

Elsa describes her home city as a “paradise”, and it’s known for its luxurious buildings, hotel schools and music festivals. There’s glimpses of this affluence throughout the series with grand structures poking out between lush forests and lavish shots of pools and tennis courts. While shooting, it brought back memories of Elsa’s teenage years, which were at first difficult to process. “I started this work when I realised it was painful for me to live in the Riviera Vaudoise. Growing up with the mountains on one side and the lake on the other is amazing; but my teenage years were more difficult. I felt I couldn’t enjoy either the landscapes or the people anymore. I was living there but I didn’t feel it,” explains Elsa. “I started looking at this place in a different, more detached way. It was like I could now see everything that was fake about it and couldn’t understand why people would continue to live there.”

This sense of disconnect is felt through Elsa’s images, but it gives the series an uneasy and beguiling tone, where we’re not quite sure where we are or who these people are. This is emphasised through Elsa’s use of rich, muted colour, which creates a film-like aesthetic to the photographs. The series is more than just a study of a city, rather it’s Elsa’s perception of Riviera Vaudoise. There’s glimmers of the glitz and glamour, but it’s the quieter moments that we really enjoyed, such as the man walking on his own down a palm tree-lined street. “I think my style is a mixture of documentary and storytelling. I like to be inspired by real things and to tell stories lead by my emotions,” says Elsa. “Riviera Paradise talks about where I grew up, I use photography to try and understand what defines me and feel I need to experience things before I can photograph them.”

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise

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Elsa Guillet: Riviera Paradise