A Very Private Pool A masterpiece—and mystery—in the south of France. 

A Very Private Pool A masterpiece—and mystery—in the south of France. 

Issue 36

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Harriet Fitch Little
  • Photograph Romain Laprade
  • Courtesy of Villa Noailles

Romain Laprade’s image of a calm, sun-kissed swimming pool brings to mind the saying “still waters run deep”: The photograph is actually the conclusion of a decades-long mystery. In 1976, Magnum photographer Martine Franck took a celebrated black-and-white photograph of a group of women relaxing on the decking of a sculptural pool in southern France. Franck’s image became famous, but the location faded into obscurity.

A few years ago, curators from the nearby Villa Noailles launched a detective mission to find its exact location using satellite imagery. They reasoned, rightly, that it wouldn’t be hard to spot: “It was a huge pool surrounded by white,” Laprade points out. Laprade was commissioned to photograph the newly located pool in 2017, and he was fortunate enough to m...

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