The Rock of Ercé

Thomas Bouquin

2014 - 2016

New York, United States

The Rock of Ercé is the photographic evocation of an immigration history, both collective and personal, between the village of Ercé (France) and New York, since the late nineteenth century. This project brings distant times and places together, to highlight how the memory of one remains in the imagination of the other.

Ercé was the historic capital of the Pyrenean bear leaders. These men were gathering cubs in the mountains that they trained to make street performances. Dozens of them immigrated to New York accompanied by their animals, hoping to make fortune with their shows. In the valley, they were called the Americans.

Early twentieth century, echoes of these Americans' successes led to a new wave of emigration. Many people from Ercé decided to exile in New York to work in French

restaurants that were becoming more and more numerous.

Among them was my great-great-grandmother. She left her valley, family and children to work as a maid in New York during a couple of years to pay back the farm they had just bought. A few years later, she eventually returned to Ercé and the farm still belongs to the family.

In the heart of Manhattan, immigrants from Ercé used to meet at a rock every Sunday to help each other and share news from their village.

They called it the Rock of Ercé.

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