En 1990, en cheminant avec mon oncle berger transhumant dans les Alpes de Haute Provence, je découvre la photographie au fil des jours de transhumance dans le parc du Mercantour. Cette passion ne le lâchera plus. Photographe autodidacte, je rejoins l’agence Magnum comme assistant photographe en 1994. Je commence à photographier le monde rural hors du cadre familial et reçoit le prix Défi-jeune du Ministère de la jeunesse et des sports en 1995 ; suivront le prix de la Fondation Publicis Bleustein Blanchet en 1998 et le prix Marc de Montalembert en 1999.

Grâce à ces dotations je me suis attaché à suivre les nomades et leurs troupeaux dans les pays méditerranéens et en Afrique. Photographe mandaté par l’ONU en 2005 je pars en mission en Ethiopie pour rencontrer l’ensemble des tribus pastorales. Mon travail a été exposé en Grèce à l'Institut français d'Athènes, en Autriche, Italie, Espagne et en Ethiopie. Le livre photographique « L’Odyssée Pastorale » (sortie prévue juillet 2009 aux Editions Actes Sud) racontera cette immersion durant des années dans ce monde rural où, face à l'urbanisme croissant et au développement de l'agriculture moderne, bergers et transhumance sont en complète mutation.

Je suis actuellement engagé dans des projets de photographies (sous-marines et terrestres) avec pour sujet les paysages et le patrimoine méditerranéens

English biography

Son and grandson of moving shepherds, in a biographical and reflexive quest, I was taken to look into a task that was the one of my father's and my grandfather's but will never be mine. My photographic quest draws its sources from a history of lines, of features, limits, traces, that constitute and mark a territory. It also finds roots in the ancient culture but in a very fragile way of the pastoral civilization.
In the beginning, there is the course where the line of the family roots stretches out between the alpine province and the Piémont mountains. The path (or rather paths) of the migratory shepherd, the trip that for centuries was brought twice a year by men and herds over the lands.
Shifts of altitude by the ones and shifts of attitude by my shepherd father to draw a line on this nomad life. A break in the long lasting line of journeys, the change of heading that announced other changes and the end of a way of life.
A segmented concept came after an open concept, the one of the migratory shepherds. Along the way my father learned to build walls. From being a shepherd he became a bricklayer.

My artistic path, my photographer's itinerary has been continually questionning the pastoral culture of the migration around the mediterranean area and even farther, ever since I was conscious of the fracture by my rejected inheritance.
It is not a simple quest for roots ( of which nomads don't feel concerned ) but a semi-etnographic exploration of the mentioned event vanishing little by little : The trace of the pastoral routes, the mediterranean and african shepherd's world.

The shepherd is, for Jean Blanc (migratory shepherd, pioneer of ecomuseums and natural regional parks) "a rare and well placed man that worthy to be visited".
If we can't really share the shepherd's lifestyle, at least we are being tempted by his space, his territory free of time rather than constraining as our's.
The modern shepherd, mobile by definition, finds trouble in finding his place in our society's rules and the day to day life.
Nevertheless, we park our car to let him pass with his herd and travelers try to get his attention, just an esxcuse to accoast him. When shepherd , dogs and sheeps have been passed in review, our strollers leave the pastures right away.
Filled with a delighted complicity, they are positive of having experienced again with a rustical universe that they thought lost. Each one goes back to its world with the self created image of the other's. In this way, each one has seen, alternated, or spoken with a shepherd. But what if we flip the tendency ? What image does the shepherd have about his environment and about the society who uses him as a symbol of liberty and independence ?

"The migratory pastoralism (that for its mobile character seems to escape every single social rule) seems to be an ideal antithesis to urban values, a kind of sociological island lost across the big continent of the global society in which we live. A lost paradise where the actors and their knowledge, still alive and moving, already have the fascinating beauty of death." (Guillaume Lebaudy, mirror of the Pastoral migration, conference, 2004).
The shepherd is an actor in his city in spite of himself and because of it to it. He often finds himself facing an imposed urban scenery.
Historically we have found ourselves in front of a cleavage of the consciousness of being in the world: On one side, the original nomad for which the journey, the orientation of the human being is essential ; on the other hand, the sedentary for which subject and object are the main point which moves toward a specific location. Lifeless what characterizing the townsman, sedentary and urban, oppose the nomad warrior.(Paul Virilio, speed of freedom, 1995)

"I keep myself by the line", tell me the shepherds to explain me they remain in summer in the French-Italian border. The sheperds of my childhood forced me to look toward the sides of mount Genèvre, looking for the trace that I might still be looking for.
Turned into entrepreneur of construction and of course sedentary, my father keep me away from the pastoral roads that took him from Provence to Piémont. Once he said : "You will do and be whatever you want, except Shepherd".
His command accelerated my curiosity. It made me understand that I was safe and good in the limit of a world in which I was forbidden to enter, and a world of enormous possibilities to explore. It's this position between two universes that allowed me to walk alongside and to draw my own line. By means of obtaining various resources, I was able to travel all over the Mediterranean region beyond the path of the european shepherds.
On these trips, I accomplished a very personal photographic report and at the same time, universal, A mixture of faces and scenarios, roads and territories.
These photos place and show my own history as an itinerant photographer. Are the shepherds and their herds arriving to the limits of the suburbs that pushed me to take and perceive the city as a struggling entity in a permanent osmosis with it's rural environment. To look closer into the conflict and the changes in the context of the urban and consuming hegemony in which the countryside gives space.
I noticed in my photographic journeys, the breaking points between the rural and urban universe that fascinated me in their arrangement, their geometry and their alternative and precarious balance.
How to find a fair point of view. How to be at the right point to see these stratums of spaces sit astride, opposing or evading in these zones of "No development territory" ?
Following the roads of migratory shepherds where the herds touch and sometime cross (often by night) the cities, I am in the quest of these underlaying boundaries that emerge in the contact of two living forms. Never fully closed boundaries, contact and exchange points rather than break points in the territory of different and contracted universes as the city and the country are.

To sum up, who can tell the sense of the surrounding world, and who can even say if it is necessary to tell it?
Maybe the shepherd !
But what a big responsability it is to define the meaning of an habitable world, by tracks, movements and the leading of the herd.
Alain Roger recalls "A landscape as an aesthetic object, is never natural, but always cultural" (Landscape and environment, a disassociated theory, 1994).
If the shepherd is the most fluid of the elements of the reality, he also is the most transitory, the least permanent, the blurriest. This man exists only by the movement. It is this fluidity, this dynamism that allows him to affirm his hold over the herd in which he assures an action to continue the domestication.

To speak about domestication, it is necessary to speak about Domus, the house of the alienated herd, this summer roman house, this point not only fixed but also spinning that turns the shepherd into a seminomad that moves away from the warrior figure and gets closer once again to the movement phenomenon....
The pastoral migration, this human creation, of ones cultural expression is erected on the landscape of an organization under the reason of exploiting an already laboured territory, moulded by the projects man does around it.
My photography project observes this will of moulding the territory, of showing it through the pastoral movements. I have learnt not to be shocked by the rural world, never to take this universe as a production of spectacular gesture.
One scythed harvest, the threshing of wheat, are events tied to a temporal space, a season. A peasant gets his wheat with a scythe, and then what ?
I will be tempted to say then, that a great amount of the agricultural humanity proceeds this way.
The aesthetic substance of my research is not there. It is in the invention of another reality, of another distance with the object, the gesture , the action, the season. It is the research for a new method of inventory of photographic impressions facing man and his movements in space, in the relation with objects, with animals.
I force myself to avoid the spectacular, to let the light invade the void of my film. My photographic project has, as a purpose, to change this reducing view of the landscape.
It is mandatory then to admit, that the rural space has entered to the urban move with a new sort of strength and consequently we find it near the wide network of crossroads to the city. The pastoral itinerary has become my expertise domain , as itinerant photographer, I strolled around Europe in a boundless way, only coming back to France to get the necessary, to leave again in the quest for european shepherds.
The word nomad brings on space and movement. Seminomads as defined by the ethnologists? It is today a noltalgia for nomadism; a desire for space and movement.
The research for new ways of deploying the energy of the being, out from the already used dialectics and the coded inscriptions.
Civilizations are mortal, we say, and who is able to deny it? Their end is already stated from the moment of their conception. Nomadism bonded to space rather than time, or history, will it escape this fatality ?
For sure, history absorbs everything, and civilizations have absorbed their nomad neighbours. But is it possible that an intellectual... nomadism subsists ? Am I the derived subject of this human experience? My quest does not come by the fact that I feel left on the road side. Have I missed the passage of pastoral migration? Shepherds are usually, especially the migratory ones, the compromise of this state of fact, the last mutation before the dissolution of this practice.
The linked blending in one no-nomad society, a society that excludes wandering for moving and circulation totalizes the properties and the people. I force myself to study this speed differential all along my six months stay.
My viewing work is arranged around several devices. The most outstanding ones are the takes of heavy views that need a pulley of 12 to 20 meters high, which give me a new and original reading of the dimensional limits. My approach of photography is refined and completed with elevators and moving nacelles for a better hold of the field depth for my takes in ( 6 x 17 ) format of panoramic B/W or color.
Overpassing the tree tops and the different buildings, dominating both spaces for a better comprehension and perspective: visual walking, the focal as a tool of comparative ethno-photographic approach. The employment of a quite big format as the 6 x 17 permits to do zooms of big measure that impress realism and precision that supply a state of the architectural places of the city held in the countryside and vice versa.
In addition, I count on the back up with a qualified working force that inscribes a double title in the development of the view taking.
Those handling the devices for doing every kind of chore, having a memory and an aerial view over the city and its peripheria. This includes tasks such as fixing electric poles and changing lightbulbs in the streetlamps when necessary.
Their daily rise turns them into watchmen. Their indications have been precious during the spots. What do these look-out posts tell? That the landscape is not immutable, that the transformation, the mutation speed is done by time.
But photography is not a video surveillance, it doesn't turn around as a watering device , it doesn't search the faults. It is in the recording, not closed nor definitive of reality. Ideally and historically this look-out posts announced the arrival of the other one , of the stranger to the social composition, the landscape body.
It was the arrival or the return of the boat coming from far away, the return of merchants, dealers, shepherds in the city. I think that it is necessary to install again these posts and substitute the surveillance cameras for the dark cameras of slow and progressive landscape observation. The ones that look beyond buildings and go through cleavages, suburbs, downtown, countryside.
It is mandatory to take advantage from these observations by the images analysis that must have a longer reach, a more universal one than the surveillance cameras over their pylons. Our society has the right to expect more than that. It has the right to demand others to look over it. It has the right to see something else than its urban navel.

My second process backs up the principles and the concepts that are the bases of photography. It means to use the dark camera and the most rudimentary techniques in the shorthand view takes. These ones will be often taken at ground level to give the most effective counter field to the scientific aerial exploration that would oblige us to consider the ground, the grass, the pavement and the tar parts of the city as the fundamental historical support. The use of the shorthand as "Ancient tool " will underline the fluidity of the actors in the urban areas, being them animals or people.
The time for the takes, long enough ( 15 seconds to one minute ) will line out or degradate the movements . It will notice the human and animal speed and will oppose the places stability.
The hidden and obscure approach toward the forces of reality obliging us to enter into the image by an observation of details which are the keys to discover the ensemble.
The ensemble given to each one, recomposed realities, according to his own experience, image history and memories. Like a key, given to each one in order to build his own reality.
A grain of image, not quilted but spread, rubbed like the hardening of a bricklayer. The hardening of job that turns as the stoneware pot. A hardening of pigment that turns around time and light on the image.

by Lionel ROUX