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28 June 2007


We found this man in a little village; he was just walking around. We tried to talk to him and to find out where he lived. Apparently he was a little deaf because all he showed us were the nearby fields, not the house. After trying a few more times, he eventually brought us to a barn, opened the door and entered, gesturing us to follow.

We walked into the stable in which the cows roamed free. We thought he misunderstood us again, but then he opened another door behind the cows he pushed aside. We followed and finally entered the house. We later learned this is the normal way to enter a farmhouse. In the kitchen there was a youn(ger) woman trying to make a phone call. She appeared to be his daughter. And she looked quite surprised when we came in after the old man; she ended the conversation. When we explained what we came to do, she agreed to be photographed.

As I was putting on the black cloth over my head to make the photograph, I noticed that there was a dead mouse lying behind me on the mantelpiece. The old man saw that I had discovered the mouse and started laughing. He had caught it himself and he kept it here as a present for the cat. The woman sort of felt ashamed of the situation and covered her face with her hands while she laughed. After the shot, he had to show us his mousetraps. He had many of them and all were self made. The big one in the photo is a guillotine-like trap: the mouse (or rat) enters the trap, after which a very heavy piece of wood falls on its head.

27 June 2007

The Prestige and La Costa De La Muerte

In November 2002, the Greek oil tanker Prestige found itself in trouble during heavy weather near the coast of Galicia (which is also known as the Costa de la Muerte; “Coast of the Dead”). The Galician coast is one of the most fertile fishing grounds in Europe. Authorities failed to take the right actions when the ship called for help and the boat eventually broke in two, sinking and spilling some 130,000 liters of raw oil every day. The oil damaged the Galician coast and thousands of fishermen were out of business for years to come.

In the village of Camelle used to live a German artist. He is still called "the Alleman" and he had built his little shack on village’s rocky coast. Over the years he transformed the coastline directly in front of his hut into a work of art, cementing the round stones together into various sculptures.After the disaster with the Prestige, he died. The community claims that he died of grief. They protect his little shack and the sculptures around it. Some sculptures reminded me of the structure of a bridge that I photographed a few days later.

26 June 2007

We Have All We Need

We found her aside the road chopping firewood, and when we started talking to her she took us to her house. There we met her husband. The living room was like I never had seen before. The fire was right in the middle of the room on the floor; there was no mantelpiece, nor was there a chimney. The ceiling just went up and ended in a small hole in the roof. So you could say that the room was a fireplace in and of itself. Everything in the room was black. Black from the smoke and tar that comes from fire. You can't see them in these photos, but in the Domestic Landscapes series you see the iron chain on which they hang the cooking pot. It is attached to a beam that can be swung away.There was absolutely nothing in the house that they didn't need to live their lives. When asked if they were lacking anything the man stood up, walked to the chabot in the back of the room (see the photo on my website by clicking here), opened it and said: "We have everything we need." Inside we saw a piece of homemade bread, homemade cheese, homemade chorizo, homemade olive oil and homemade wine. "And besides that," he said, "we have each other," and he sat next to her to be photographed.

My guess is that they are way up in their eighties or even nineties and they have lived all their lives in that smoky house. They were each as strong as an ox.I have met many people like them, living high up in the mountains and taking care of themselves until they die. They very often do not even exactly know their own age. The thing is that they would not be registered until they were old enough to make the journey to the city to be registered. Both their parents and they themselves never learned to read or write; they often think that they must have been five or six years of age when they were registered. So the official documents are always five or six years off-track. It also shows that smoke isn't the big killer in areas like that.

(My guess is that stress is much more dangerous to people than smoke.)