In his photo series La famille, photographer Alain Laboile reveals the beloved grit of family life in the French countryside, where social media comes not filtered through mind-numbing screens, but instead through the candid snapshots of his laughing, playing and growing family.
Each photo in the series initially appears quite simple, but after a longer gaze the complex moods and stories begin to emerge.
In the featured image, for instance, Laboile had just returned from a leisurely walk through the countryside with his youngest daughter Nil and their fluffy cat Kika. Tired and stained with freshly picked (and eaten) blackberries, the soiled, stoic-looking pair sit gazing out as the mailman drives by.
In another photo, Laboile springs to capture an elder daughter attempting to move a wheelbarrow that had gulped up the rain from a recent summer downpour – just as it begins to wobble and overturn. Her surprised expression confesses the inevitable waterfall that ensues.
So despite his series being in black and white, the mood of the series is neither tense nor oppressive; instead, a subtle heaviness in the photos trickles down the cracks and edges, tracing out a foreign yet familiar atmosphere of some place that you surely must have visited before.
“We chose to live in the countryside, in a really old house, without unnecessary comfort nor television,” Laboile tells GARAKAMI about his rural home in France. “Our vast yard, bordered by a stream, with its bamboo forest and a family-dug natural pool, is our universe. I learned to know this natural environment intimately – I know where to stand to catch the light.”
But beyond beautiful candids and a great demonstration of how rich a simple life can be, Laboile’s ongoing family series serves as an ethnological study through photography, comparing the different characteristics and relationships between family members and how they change with time.
For instance, the different reactions of his familial muses towards being photographed illustrate the variation between the age-dependent social norms on appearance. Laboile explained that his youngest children are indifferent to the camera; to them, it is simply a natural extra appendage on their father. And while the middle children are aware and play along, they remain unfazed; it is the oldest ones that are self-consciousness, which makes it harder to capture them naturally. Nonetheless Laboile’s photos portray an atypical and perhaps more meaningful idea of comfort, devoid of electronic pacifiers – that is, one that is instead centered around a cohesive and supportive atmosphere of freedom, creativity, and authentic experience.
“Day to day I create a family album that constitutes an legacy that I will pass on to my children,” Laboile explains. “My work reflects our way of life, revolving around their childhood. My photographs will be the testimony of that.”