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Raymond Depardon: Communes

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A photographic essay on Southern France's neglected but characterful villages

In Communes, French photographer Raymond Depardon (born 1942) explores the villages of the Mediterranean inland region, in the South of France. These villages have long been abandoned, threatened by the “Nant concession,” a shale gas extraction project that was heavily protested by inhabitants and finally abandoned in 2015. Since then, the villages, with their cobbled streets and old houses with jagged facades and scanty windows, have once again become inhabited by people. The villages represent havens where tranquility and cool prevail.

The black-and-white photographs that comprise this work were made after the first lockdown, during the summer of 2020, a backdrop that highlights the isolation of life in these small villages. The regions pictured include the south of the Massif Central in Aveyron, Lozère, Gard and Hérault.