Apples, deeply linked to the history of Normandy, were referred to in the book of Genesis as an object of desire, as well as a dark form of temptation. Was it because of the type of inebriation they can cause that they were blamed for the fall of Mankind? Present in many well-known tales and stories, apples have always haunted Humanity’s subconscious.
When looking at this in a more practical way, apples are, above all, an agricultural product and an economic resource that ensures farmers a complementary income when they make cider or distill Calvados. This is the way in which Vincent BRIEN, a photographer focusing both on social reality as well as the beauty of our natural landscapes, both rustic and picturesque, has chosen to highlight the subject.
As is the case in many little kids born in Normandy (the same thing was true for me too), Vincent has fond memories of brewers who went from one house to another to propose their brewing services after the apples were picked. When the hydraulic pressing machine pulled in, the ritual that accompanied this arrival could be compared with that of grape pressing in the Burgundy or Aquitaine regions in France. This charm was not only composed of the noise and fragrance that went hand-in-hand with these operations. You should have seen the impressive clothes worn by the brewers, ensconced in their wax-protected clothing and their reddish and weathered faces! When we were children, at that time, it was as if we were looking at Captain Nemo or William the Conqueror.
I, myself, witnessed these unforgettable times, when, as the night was falling, a handful of bearded workers started up their machinery, accompanied by mysterious noises. It was both fascinating and a bit frightening, as all of this virile agitation taking place here had to follow very precise and unexpected procedures. I can still see that rudimentary lamp that lit up the myriad actions of these men. The machine went into motion, more or less invoking Chaplin in his famous movie “Modern Times.” Each person was responsible for one particular task, and the skill set chain was superbly tried and tested.
Since that time, many years have gone by, but brewing remains a technique whose methods have just barely changed. In the countryside, this activity still takes place, with an intensity and passion just like the post-War period. Vincent BRIEN, with his keen eye focused between the press and the “bouillote” (used to distill Calvados), has accompanied these men whose gestures go hand-in-hand with the bounties Mother Nature offers. His striking images plunge us into the very heart of this alcoholic apple laden reality. That of unadorned work of these brewers and distillers and of their colourful presence.
When I discovered these images one after another, a host of sensations surfaced, taking me back to a time when this know-how was truly respected. The diversity of these professions creates the wealth of a language, and even of a country. It inundates our heritage that our grand-parents or great grand-parents have left for us. Each gesture and each tool is a testimonial to memories exceeding those of fokelore, and memories are the future’s best ally and kin.
Luis PORQUET, English translation by Jacquie BRIDONNEAU