éléments d’une typologie de l’urbanisation contemporaine d’un village français de deux mille huit cent trente neuf habitants by Christophe Le Toquin

For a change this post is not reporting on one single photobook but on a series of 10 booklets or so-called zines. The series is treating one single subject, that is the place where the photographer is living, his village.

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© Christophe Le Toquin

The village is Noyers sur Cher, a commune in the heart of France and the photographer is Christophe Le Toquin, a.k.a. Christer Ek, the inspiring and always enthusiastic voice behind the photobook blog “Who needs another photo blog“.

It is said that zines are usually made with a very specific concept in mind. And that is definitely the case here. As we can learn from the title, the photographer is zooming on “elements of a typology of the contemporary urbanisation of a French village of two thousand eight hundred and thirty nine inhabitants“.  Changing the scales for each volume, he is patiently observing from each possible angle “the effects of modernity, its accomplishments and its failures, on a rural town”.

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© Christophe Le Toquin

In a way, Christophe seems to have conceived the series as as work of microhistory of his village, in the tradition of the famous, quasi literary microhistories of other villages, like Montaillou (Le Roy Ladurie) or Montereale (Ginzburg). The difference being that he is not delving into the convictions, vagaries and misfortunes of the villagers (nobody from the 2.838 co-citizens is made visible). Instead, myriads of tangible traces are shown that the villagers are leaving behind while constantly building and re-building their habitat.

Let’s follow two (of the many) threads of such traces that are laid out throughout the series. First, there are those elements that have been disaffectated with the pace of time:  a rocking horse with broken legs, a worn out mattress, a car without headlights. We also see a factory, a signal-cabin and a filling-station all fallen into disuse. They are dismantled. All these elements may have been certainties in a local’s life. Now they lay forsaken in the eternal shadows. Only the photographer-microhistoriographer hasn’t discarded them from his work.

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© Christophe Le Toquin

Another thread doesn’t cast any doubt about the speed at which progress is imposing itself onto the place:  thoroughfares, electricty and telephone cables, railways, road markings, parking facilities, power pylons, roundabouts. Yeah, these are the elements that are conducting the villagers fast and efficiently to their future!

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© Christophe Le Toquin

Like a real historiographer, the photographer is never becoming sentimental, neither when he is focussing on the elements that are disaffected nor when he is focussing on the elements that are promissing progress. The series has nothing in common with Rimbaud‘s mindblowing farewell speech to his own French village Roche, where he was declaring his sympathy with all things disaffected, with “les arriérés de toutes sortes, mendiants, brigands, vagabonds, saltimbanques“, while at the same time crying “il faut être absolument moderne.”

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© Christophe Le Toquin

But I find Christophe’s microhistory evenly poetic. The sober and neat black & white representations have the feeling of a futurist poem. Sometimes the elements that he shows us are formally becoming letters of a new alphabet, the only one that is able to describe what is going on in the name of progress. In this new alphabet, the ode to progress becomes at the same time its subtle critique! The speaker of this new language knows that the commuter’s functional roundabout is a nightmare for the Tour de France cyclist; that trees whose only function is the decoration of the straightened Routes Nationales are too dusty to grow, that the prefabricated constructions in the SME-zonings have blind walls because they refuse to tell how they are contributing to Noyer’s future. Fortunately, in the very last picture, a very tempting aspect of the future is acknowledged as well. A tomato plant is blooming and blooming and its fruits are nearly  ready to taste! Nothing is forgotten.

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© Christophe Le Toquin

Zines, by their very nature, are also said to be able to target a specific audience with whom it is possible to develop a tight and close interaction. And also this is definitely the case here. The series (regularly self-published over the last few years) is actually on tour since the beginning of 2017 meeting with its audience. There have already  been shows in Val de Loire and in Paris (Librairie Volume).  Next stop is Brussels in the photobook-treasury Hors Format. And the show is from June 14th till August 26th.

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Looking very much forward to it, Mr. Le Toquin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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