Christophe Agou’s project Facing silence was awarded the 17 th European Publishers Award for Photography. He came to the notice of international critics for several works, particularly Life Below, 2004—a series shot in the New York subway. He was born in Monbrison, a small town at the foot of the Forez hills, in the Loire Department, France. He left France in 1992 and settled in New York. This early voluntary exile, an urge to immerse himself in a completely different world, is typical of the work that Agou has been developing over the last twenty years: an intuitive and empirical exploration of universes, situations and people that he comes to understand by a gradual process of absorption, not realising it has happened until he finds himself resonating intimately with them. In the winter of 2002, Christophe Agou returned to his native Forez and roamed around the harsh landscape there; it had never left his mind. He got to know, and became friends with, farming families. After eight years, this resulted in Facing silence, which is far from just a documentary about rural life in early twenty-first century France. The farm doors that Christophe Agou enters on our behalf open to reveal the faces of men and women who command our respect and give us pause for meditation. The ‘matter’ and everyday texture of these lives, their work and the elements, like a saga punctuated by very telling, though motionless, tracking shots, is displayed with almost organic realism. Facing silence is a very special diary about existences governed by the necessities of hard work and the weight of the seasons. Its sympathetic and contained power jolts us out of our role as spectator and implicates us in a shared destiny.

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