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Valérie Winckler : Non Essential


“It was heart breaking for me to close my shop’s door. I had the impression I had let it down”. This was the message that Stéphanie posted on Facebook, on the 5th of November 2020, a few days after the beginning of the second lockdown.

After reading this message, I began looking for the best way to support all those who had to shut down because they were categorized as “non essential”. Couldn’t I portray them in their closed shops, cafés, restaurants, workshops and thus make them visible?

This is how the project “Non Essential” was born.

To my relief, they all accepted with enthusiasm, even though I had no idea of what would become of the photos. They trusted me… Progressively, it became obvious, that what they said to me was a moving evidence of what they were living and I decided to go around not only with my camera but with a tape recorder. It is important for me to use the precise words of those I interview and not a transcription done with my words.

When I start a personal project, I don’t have a precise approach because I find that it would narrow my vision. That makes me free and available to anything I don’t foresee. But freedom means also responsibility. I especially felt that while selecting the excerpts of the interviews, when I suddenly realized that I was trying to choose what was essential for the “non-essentials”.

I spent two lockdowns at île d’Yeu, a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. The work I did for the NON ESSENTIAL exhibition changed my perception of this island. First, when I think of it, I think of all the friendly people I was lucky to meet. Secondly, I discovered that for them, their profession is not just a financial operation but mostly a source of social link. Their shop, their craft, their art is their creation: “my marvel”, “my baby”, “my own essential”… and they have put all their heart in it.

Valérie Winckler



Valérie Winckler : Non Essential

Exhibition on the walls and around the local cinema

4 rue du Petit Chiron

île d’Yeu

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