Some months after completing the ‘Pays de la Roubine, le Rabet et la Nielle’ collection of images, I was having a discussion with the Barcelona photographer, Enric Montes, who said to me ‘Well, Chris, we have seen something of the natural landscape of the Corbières, but you have shown us nothing of the people who live there and the lives they lead.” I pondered this for a while and decided that indeed I would attempt to show something of the people of the Corbières village, Coustouge, where I live. In fact, I was reminded of something my mother-in-law, Peggy Poynor, had said to me forty years before, One afternoon in August Peggy had gone out for a walk after lunch (so it’s not just mad dogs and Englishmen, it’s English women, too!). Peggy wasn’t gone long and on her return she said ‘There’s nobody here! Whatever do you do in this village? There’s nothing to do!”
Well, if you know where to look, there is plenty going on. Always. But of course on a Summer’s afternoon, with the temperatures hitting 32C in the shade (so easily 50C under the direct sun), of course, everyone is indoors, shutters firmly shut. They are taking a siesta, reading, watching TV, playing with children, preparing food, working on projects…as many activities as there are people. But of course, all this is invisible to someone passing through the village. You’d need to be invited into homes in order to see these activities. Even today, tourists in cars, take thirty seconds to cross from one side of the village to the other and in the Summer the village will appear as empty as it did to Peggy Poynor forty years ago. And late on winter afternoons too, people have the shutters shut, the fire banked-up and they keep indoors for warmth so casual passers-by are going to think the village is deserted.
So, I decided to attempt a project to try and capture this idea of a Corbières village where life is lived to the full but that this life is not really evident to outsiders. I saw that there were two sides to the village in this case, one is the buildings and other ‘signs of life’ (eg washing on the line, machines, animals etc) and the other are the village’s inhabitants going about their daily lives (relaxing and spending time together, with their dogs, gossiping with neighbours, preparing food etc). Thus this project is in two halves: part 1 consists of photographs of buildings and signs of life while part 2 is of human inhabitants of the village.