Photos of French treasure hunters | Pages Da

A couple of years ago I played the lottery every week. I am human and fell victim to the false hope that thoughts of winning created in my mind. And I’m hardly alone.

Powerball tickets are sold in over 40 US states, and in Michigan on Halloween, lottery players bought 160,000 tickets an hour. The promise of wealth, with all the fantasies it entails, is a very, very strong drug.

Photographer Emily Graham’s new book, “The Blindest Man” (Void, 2022), strikes a similar direction. But instead of hopeful lotteries, Graham’s book follows people searching for an elusive and legendary treasure, the “Chouette d’Or,” or Golden Owl, located somewhere in France.

The Golden Owl is a sculpture that was buried by a writer who then released a book that contains eleven clues to where it is hidden. About 30 years later, the sculpture remains to be found.

Graham spent three years following people looking for the treasure. Like a person who buys a lottery ticket hoping to win, these people probably have visions of grandeur dancing through their heads, thinking of being the one to finally find the Golden Owl.

The possibility of finding a treasure and being thrown into life-changing circumstances is a heavy, magnetic pull for almost all of us. Who wouldn’t love to wind up with a windfall of cash that can help them pay off bills, retire, and gain a slice of freedom in a sometimes claustrophobically restrictive life?

Here is more about the book from the publisher:

“The clues about where they were Chouette d’Or consists of text and paintings and has [led] a large number of seekers in the countryside of France. The game was designed to last two or maybe three years and searching for the treasure became a common pastime in France. The author – originally anonymous – is now dead, and only the truly committed continue to search against a tide of rumour, misinformation and red tape clouding their investigations. Scientists, doctors, retirees and artists all continue with elaborate calculations and theories about the location of the cache. Each has their own “zone” where they scan the landscape and draw conclusions from broken branches, the contours of maps and shadows that cross the land. Some are inspired to continue for the challenge of code-breaking, others for philosophical reflection, an adventure or a way of experiencing and seeing, a lens through which to look.”

Graham’s photos and collected ephemera plunged us into people’s quixotic attempts to find the treasure. There is equal parts longing, mystery and even beauty in the images. Sometimes the images have a muted palette. But it never takes away from the work’s magnetic power to show people engaging in an act of faith, even if it eventually turns into a fool’s errand. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good description of life – following the cryptic messages life sends us on our daily journey towards whatever it is we’re trying to find.

You can find out more about the book, and buy it, on the publisher’s website, here.


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