The magazine of the photo-essay
January 2017 issue
by Claude le Gall
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”
Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
I was born in a little village on the north coast of Brittany. Until the mid seventies kelp was gathered from the spring
months until early autumn. The local fishermen would go out in their boats, cut the kelp with scythes and when they
came back to moor in Baie du Kernic, they would unload the kelp into horse-drawn carts. Forty years later, I still see
the horses, chest-deep in the water, and the next minute, pulling the heavy load up a steep lane. The kelp was left to
dry on the dunes for a few days before being piled into heaps.
I documented the daily lives of people I had known since I was a kid. In fact, their way of life had changed very little
since time immemorial. They all spoke Breton among themselves, reverting to French only when an outsider came by.
This suddenly came to an end in the mid-seventies and the place where I was born evolved from a coastal village into a
In the early seventies I moved to the central part of Brittany where I had got a job as a teacher of English in a lycée. I
discovered a totally different land with endless winters and rainy days on end. Fortunately the traditions were very
much alive and I embarked on a project that kept me busy for about thirty years, photographing both religious and
secular events. I would attend innumerable “pardons” (religious festivals ) as well as “festou-noz” ( night music sessions
and dances ) in which local people danced to the skirl of the “biniou” ( Breton pipes) and the “bombarde” (a kind of
oboe) or the shrill notes of the “Kan ha diskan” singers.
Changes have taken place over the past twenty or thirty years. The rural way of life is gradually disappearing but some
traditions somehow manage to survive.
I have always believed that one of the purposes of photography was to record things at a given time because
everything alters with the passing of the years. These photographs, in a way, are a record of my immediate
surroundings all through those years.
Kelp gatherers. Plouescat c. 1970.
Kelp gatherers. Plouescat, 1969.
Heaps of dried kelp. Cléder, 1987.
Going fishing, Plouescat, 1972.
Cider making. Motreff, 1987.
Winter. Kerlouan, 1981.