Stéphane Lavoué: „On the Edge of the World”

Finalist 2018: Stéphane Lavoué

Over a period of three years, Stéphane Lavoué has created a mosaic of landscapes, portraits and detailed motifs, captured in Guilvinec, Brittany, where he lives. With his “On the Edge of the World” series, he has created a cosmos of images that illustrate his feelings about life and tradition in this windswept area.

Lavoué’s “On the Edge of the World” series talks about the sea, about the workplaces it creates, the backdrop it provides, and the threatening power it exercises. The photographer dresses the raw landscape in poetic raiment. The setting is the coast of Brittany in the Département Finistère, which inspired the name for the series (finis terrae or end of the world). The details in the pictures merge like an impressionist painting, while the people in their traditional costumes and curious clothing appear surreal in contrast. It is important to know that Guilvinec, where Lavoué lives, is defined by the fishing industry; the harbour there is one of the most important in Brittany. The village is not a tourist destination, and the people living there keep to themselves. 

“I was trying to create my own fictional realm, based on a true story.”

Breton horses, apparently brought over by the Celts more than 4000 years ago, graze in the surrounding meadows where they are attracted to the salty grass tufts. These working animals often end up in a cooking pot, because their flesh appeals to local gourmets. The traditional outfits of the Bigouden survive like folkloric refugees. The women proudly wear absurdly tall bonnets made of hand-embroidered, white cloth – Coiffe Bigoudène in French. The towering headdresses once represented a silent protest against the persecution of insurgents, following the so-called 1675 Revolt of the Papier Timbré against taxes, when Louis XIV had numerous church towers pulled down as a punishment.

Lavoué has interpreted his adopted home in his own unique manner. “On the Edge of the World” is a visual expression of a surreal and seemingly fey world, in a fictional realm of the photographer’s own creation. 

Stéphane Lavoué

Born in Mulhouse, France in 1976, Lavoué worked as a timber engineer in the Amazon region of Brazil, only sporadically taking photographs. It was the pictures of Sebastião Salgado that inspired him to take up photography as a profession. In 2001 he took a course at the Centre Iris Photography School in Paris, after which he worked for the national and international press. His pictures have been shown in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad.

Portrait: © Stanislas Alleaume