The church of Saint-Jacques in Illiers-Combray is one of the models for the Church of Saint Hilaire in Proust’s novel. The church dates from the fifteenth century and, as its name indicates, was a stopping point on the major pilgrim route to Santiago di Compostella in Spain.
The scallop shells (coquilles Saint-Jacques) worn by the pilgrims are found in the church as one of the decorative motifs. The shells have the same shape as the little cakes known as madeleines that feature in one of the most famous episodes in the novel.
Photographing Literary Landscapes
In 1913, Marcel Proust published Swann’s Way, the first part of his monumental novel In Search of Lost Time. He worked on his book for over fourteen years, writing seven volumes and creating many unforgettable characters. His novel encompasses many themes, love and jealousy, the snobbery of high society, the dangers of mistaking Eros for art, the stirrings of memory and the unstoppable nature of time. Since its publication, this vast novel continues to delight and inspire readers throughout the world.
The scenes depicted by Proust in the novel captivate his readers so much that many travel to visit the places that inspired him. These literary landscapes are to be found in Paris, Illiers-Combray, and Cabourg. I admire a writer’s ability to see a real object or place and make it visible to others through words. By using photography, I can return to the location that inspired the writer and capture the same landscapes as they continue to exist in time. The resulting juxtaposition of reality and art is a phenomenon that I find endlessly fascinating.