Peasants ot the Earth
Our work is not about pleasing, nor is it about harming anyone. Albert Londres (foreword of Terre débène)
As a responsible human being, my work is to take photographs; I leave it to the audience to look at them.I am a researcher and humanist photographer following in the tradition of August Sander, Paul Strand, and Walker Evans. I have set out to keep a visual record of men and women who have a privileged relationship with the land: the trace of the traditional peasantry as it has existed until now.
The grandson of a farmer, it is a world I know well. Over the course of many journeys, I have tried to meet those who still shape our planet in a traditional way, and establish a relationship with them.
Since the beginning of time, human beings have had an effect on their environment. Instead of drawing up a geographical report of our actions, it seemed preferable to create a human report, to keep a visual trace of those who work with and transform the earth; those who are the bearers of the knowledge and know-how passed down through generations. They are the last descendants of an ancestral culture tied to nature and the elements.
In view of what Westerners call "progress," in view of "globalization," a great proportion of the planet has kept an entirely agricultural way of life, linked to what the land can provide to live on. While this Western world applies itself to destroy the earth through agricultural industrialization, these farmers have maintained a customary style of life and are still guardians of a know-how that is destined to disappear.
Therefore I set out to keep an account of their personality, their dignity, and their pride whatever their culture and place may be, because up until now they are the ones who have shaped the earth. With these photographs, I wanted to pay tribute to them before they disappear.
For this series, I worked with a photographic process adapted for large format photography. I use a 4 x 5 folding camera on a tripod and my subjects pose for me. I use black and white instant film and work in negative/positive. This means I give my subject a print immediately, and I retain the negative. All the shots are taken at a low shutter speed (one second to 1/8 of a second); a more human speed with which one can capture a breath or a heartbeat.
Eager to avoid photographic voyeurism, I select my subjects on my strolls through the countries. I do not try to abuse the aura of authenticity in photographs, but rather to position myself at an appropriate distance from my subjects. The tools that enable me to convey a picture through my photos are simplicity and objectivity. No photos are taken furtively; there are no stolen images. Although I am the one who decides when to press the shutter, there is always a dialogue with the subject when I explain what I would like to do and the way I work.
None of my portraits are anonymous. My portraits carry the subjects name, a record of who they are.
January 25th, 2005
If you have questions, please contact Gilles Perrin or Nicole Ewenczyk
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