Thomas Bouquin, Le Roc d'Ercé

Thomas Bouquin followed the footsteps of his village’s ancestors, looking for parallels between New York and Ercé, between the 19e century and the 20th, between his own experience and everyone’s life path.

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Photo by Thomas Bouquin, from the series "The Rock of Ercé"

“My family comes from Ercé. I spent many summers as a child in the family farm there. Up until a few years ago was my uncle still running around in the fields between cows and tractors”, photographer Thomas Bouquin recalls. This farm, Bouquin learned from his great-aunt, was purchased by his great-great-grand-mother, who left her family for a few years to work as a maid in New York and gather enough money to pay back for the farm.

At that time, New York attracted a lot of people from Ercé – a small village set in a valley of the Pyreneans mountain chain that had a long tradition of bear taming. There, they could make fortune as bear leaders or chefs, and exchange news from the village by the shade of a big rock in the middle of Central Park.

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Photo by Thomas Bouquin, from the series "The Rock of Ercé"

An expatriate himself, Thomas Bouquin followed the footsteps of his village’s ancestors, looking for parallels between New York and Ercé, between the 19e century and the 20th, between his own experience and everyone’s life path. “Why did they choose a rock as a meeting point? My opinion is that it reminded them of where the rocks that are all around the mountain where they came from”, Bouquin explains.

His approach borrows from ambiguity and metaphor, based on motives that repeat themselves in different forms. He plays on scale and a very neat framing to change perspective and mix temporalities and geographies, transforming Manhattan skyline into a mountain range or the walking stick of his grand-father into what could have been that of a bear leader. In a French restaurant in New York, he found the same stuffed chamois-head and copper plates as those ornamenting his grandparent’s living room, and captured both places with no caption.

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Photo by Thomas Bouquin, from the series "The Rock of Ercé"

“I am interested in the paths each of us chooses to follow”, Bouquin tells. On the back of his cousin, atree deploys its many branches and roots, just as a barren tree turned naked by New York’s winter. “The tree illustrates the many possible life paths; it’s a single place from where everything is possible, as well as a single place where everybody goes, such as Ellis Island in the 19th century”.

In that matter, Bouquin’s series is a quest for the motivations behind leaving or staying. “The mistletoe bouquets hanging in a tree represent the fact that we all need a suitable place to exist and evolve. For me, parasitic plants symbolize that necessity.” It goes the same for his photo of a ivy-covered tree, or of a bird-house a nest balanced on a dead branch.

To learn more about Thomas Bouquin visit his PHmuseum profile here.

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