Ride with the bull people


For four years, Gaëlle Henkens and Roger Job photographed the Camargue manadiers and herdsmen. Reflection of this living tradition, Black Sun is a work of authentic beauty prefaced by Patrick de Carolis.

“The journey on horseback introduces the rider to a new interpretation of the world”. Sylvain Tesson, Small treatise on the immensity of the world.

Great books require that we summon great authors to talk about it. Precisely, Black Sun is not simply to rank among the beautiful books. It’s a great book. Not only by its imposing format, as much moreover as the photographs they contain, splendid snapshots of a Camargue which shies away from all clichés. Gaëlle Henkens and Roger Job sign a major work as soon as we discover much more than a harsh country born from the tumultuous embraces of the Rhône and the Mediterranean, overwhelmed with light and shaped by the moods of the mistral.

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riding bull people
The Camargue lives to the rhythm of the gallop of the horses and the hoof of the bulls. © Roger Job / Gaëlle Henkens.

Black Sun gives us to see a land which lives to the rhythm of the gallop of the horses and whose hoof of the bulls beats the measure of time. For the cavalier people who live there, the ride between the bullfighting horns that he venerates is more than a way of life: a way of being. This proud people is that of the manadiers, the guardians and the Arlésiennes. Too often, postcards and tourist guides confine them to the role of picturesque actors of a backward-looking foklore, a survival of an obsolete imagery attached to the Camargue and which the flamingos compete with them.

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Over the pages and seasons, the couple of photojournalists tell us a whole different story. Certainly, it is a question of breeding and tradition, of the sun which scorches the plain, of white horses like the salt flats of Aigues-Morte and black bulls like the virgin of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. But more than that, their four-year immersion in the land of the herds offers us a curious and amazed wandering following these sons of the wind who live in the permanent cult of their horned god, black sun around which everything here orbits to make society. : identity, religion, customs, language, communities, heritage, trades, popular festivals …

The summer returns the time of the abrivado. In the streets, the bull issues patents of heroism. © Roger Job / Gaëlle Henkens.

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A wild thought animates this people of the bull and instills in it a spirit of resistance in the face of cultural standardization, modernity and global warming which threaten its existence. “Our task is patient, rooted in the gestures transmitted from the ancients”, writes the captain Jean Lafon, Minotaur devoured by his passion for“This mythical animal, sometimes even mystical”. The rural heritage of these men and women is not that of another time, it is that of another world. To get there, the exceptional photographic testimony reported by Roger Job and Gaëlle Henkens is the best key.

Black Sun, Editions du Chêne, 176 pages, € 39.


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