« The silent », « The man-eater » or even « The dry guillotine »; there has been many adjectives to describe how tough was the conditions of living that the prisoners had to face when there were sent to the Saint-Joseph island.
The French penal colony commonly known as Devil’s Island consisted of three small islands located about 6 miles off the northern coast of French Guiana in the Caribbean Sea. With this set of photographs focused only on the island Saint-Joseph where the most fearless inmates were locked up, I wanted to pursue an objective essential to me. I wanted to interrogate the contradiction that the journalist Gault Mac Gowan summed up: « This is the crime set up in paradise ». To do that, I thought the only way was to describe the most faithfully possible the atmosphere full of memories that comes out of the ruins while showing the paradisiac side of the island. When you get closer to it, under this natural roof of palm trees which doesn’t allow the sun to come through, Instinctively, the visitor lowers his voice, maybe not to wake up the ghosts that now haunt the island. Yet, if you don’t know anything about the history of Saint-Joseph, the coconut trees, the turquoise sea and the fine sandy beach could seem like an idyllic place. But when you know what happened there during a century, this vision becomes distorted revealing the ghosts of yesterday. Albert Londres used to say « In this place, we are more frightened by the punishment than by the crime ». Nature now reclaims its kingdom, and it looks like these walls and these rock still keep in mind all the pain and suffering they witnessed. Those men isolated from the rest of humanity were the incarnation of the worse mankind had done in the name of justice. If nothing is done, it is likely that the last remains are going to be completely destroyed by nature. One question comes to mind then: Must we let time erase our mistakes or on the opposite, must we need to save them in order not to repeat them?