So, we packed our bags for the Misty Mountains and went over the hills and far away – that’s a good old Led Zep road trip, but it’s what we did for New Year – stuffed cases full of thick socks, thermal underwear and ski suits for a few days skiing in the French Alps at the family resort of Chamrousse, just 30 kilometres of Grenoble – our last road trip of 2017 and our first road trip of 2018 – heading home on New Year’s day – January 1st – a strange day to travel. The world is still in vaguely festive mood and everyone is recovering from the night before – the roads are kind of deserted – the wind is howling, the rain is lashing down, the countryside is in in its full, bleak, seasonal nudity and as you travel home, you travel into the new year and back to all those hard to lose habits you have sworn to give up.
If you have never been to France, you might think that the drive to the Alps is a Misty Mountain Hop, but in fact you drive through some pretty bleak and forlorn places. I tried to take a few photos of our road trip from Bourges to Grenoble for one simple reason – to show you the sinister underbelly of France but also to perfect my shooting techniques from a moving vehicle.
2017 was the year that I discovered the remarkable clichés of the American photographer, Walker Evans – I’d been taking photos like Mr Evans for years before I discovered his remarkable work. He is not an influence on my style of photography, but when I saw his retrospective exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in July 2017, it was a real eye opener – this guy takes what I take. This guy was taking it before me, and for all the years that I have been snapping away with clichés that people consider as “without interest”, I found someone who raised such photos into an art form.
“Why did you take that photo?” people ask, as I show them the full glory of a supermarket car par on a hot summer’s day – well I take that photo because no one else will – at the start it is simple street photography and in a couple of years it becomes a historic cliché of how things were way back when. We have to photograph the mundaine, bland, grey, everyday for it’s contemporary impact and for its historical value – Robert Doisneau, Walker Evans and Martin Parr – the everyday and future historical.
Ok, for those of you who thought that the road to the Alps was a twisting Tolkienesque romp through the beautiful France Profonde, this will cjange your mind. For reference this road trip goes from Bourges to Clermont Ferrand, to St Etienne, Lyons, Givors and Grenoble, across vast ans sinister tracts of France where tourists rarely go. By the way, I wish you all a happy road trip through 2018.