For four years, Gaëlle Henkens and Roger Job have photographed Camargue ranchers and gardians. Reflecting this living tradition, “Soleil Noir” (“Black Sun”) is a work of authentic beauty prefaced by Patrick de Carolis.
By Frédéric Loore
“The journey on horseback introduces the rider to a new reading of the world“. Sylvain Tesson, “Small Treaty on the Immensity of the World”.
The big books require that we summon the great authors to talk about it. Precisely, “Soleil Noir“ is not just ranking among the beautiful books. It’s a big book. Not only by its format that imposes, as much as by the photographs they contain, splendid snapshots of a Camargue that escapes all clichés. Gaëlle Henkens and Roger Job sign a major work where one discovers much more than a bitter country born from the tumultuous embraces of the Rhone and the Mediterranean, overwhelmed by light and shaped by the moods of the mistral.
“Soleil Noir“ gives us to see a land that lives to the rhythm of galloping horses and whose bulls’ hoof beats the measure of time. For the horse men and women who live in it, the ride between the bullhorns they worship is more than a way of life: a way of being. This proud people are ranchers, gardians and Arlésiennes. Too often, postcards and tour guides encapsulate them in the role of picturesque actors of a past-world foklore, the survival of an obsolete imagery contiguous to the Camargue and disputed by flamingos.
Over the pages and seasons, the couple of photojournalists tells a different story. Admittedly, there is talk of breeding and tradition, the sun that burns the plain, white horses like salt mines of Aigues-Morte and black bulls like the virgin of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. But more than that, their immersion of four years in the country of the manades offers us a curious and marvelous wandering following these son of the wind who live in the permanent worship of their horned god, black sun around which everything here orbits to make company : identity, religion, customs, language, communities, heritage, trades, popular festivals …
A savage thought animates this people of the bull and infuses them with a spirit of resistance to cultural standardization, modernity and global warming that threaten their existence. “Our task is patient, rooted in the gestures handed down by the ancients,” writes the manadier Jean Lafon, a Minotaur devoured by his passion for “this mythical, sometimes even mystical animal“. The rural heritage of these men and women is not that of another time, it is that of another world. To have an opening there, the exceptional photographic testimony reported by Roger Job and Gaëlle Henkens is the best of the keys.
“Soleil Noir”, Editions du Chêne, 176 pages, 39 €.