Les Rochers Fauves is the title of a photography book by Clement Chapillon which can be literally translated into “wild rocks”. The book is a collection of Chapillon’s multiple visits to the Greek island of Amorgos in the past 20 years. Belonging to the group of Cyclades, Amorgos is considered to have a “brutal beauty” as some describe it, classifying it as one of the most picturesque of the entire archipelago. Chapillon’s project takes its title from a 1892 book La Grèce d’aujourd’hui written by archeologist Gaston Deschamps. The novel is a travelogue of the island describing its traditions, nature and people. The photographer shares Deschamps fascination with the landscape of the island. For his project, Chapillon selected fragments from the original book which resonated with his understanding of Amorgos and erased the ones which did not. Les Rochers Fauves traces the concept of mental and geographical isolation which he explores through the physical space of the island. Through the concept of isolation, the photographer seeks connections to time, the other, beliefs, and the imaginary.
Travel guides refer to Amorgos as an iconic destination due to its rocky morphology surrounded by the crystalline blue water of the Aegean Sea. Unlike islands like Santorini or Mykonos, Amorgos remains largely unaffected by mass tourism. Colours are one of the primary characters in Chapillon’s photography series. Chapillon composes the narrative of Les Rochers Fauves by contrasting or uniting the brightness of the daily light with the muted colours of the landscape and the whitewashed residential houses. The contrasts between the roughness of the mountains, the dryness of the land and other colours in the palette diversify the representation of the landscape of Amorgos.
Chapillon’s photography makes use of the entire space around him. He photographs the emptiness of the landscape, but not in an isolating or closed-off way. In combination with the orange hues of the sky or the blues of the sky the scenery increases in depth. His photography follows the residents in their daily routines while catching fish or taking care of their animals. Moving around the urban and rural areas of Amorgos, Chapillon changes the point of view and changes the way the story of Amorgos is conveyed. This portrays the seemingly secluded life on an island as dynamic.
The residents of Amorgos are captured with equal precision as the natural landscape. Chapillon captures daily moments from a distance, allowing the viewer to notice the daily nuances, emotions, sleeping poses, or dreamy gazes. In addition to local customs, religion is another aspect that is crucial in shaping the culture of Amorgos. As the majority of the Cyclades archipelago, the island is strongly tied to the Greek Orthodox Church. The connection of everyday moments in Les Rochers Fauves makes the residents seemingly interact with each other. His images create a sense of togetherness and community among all, despite the harshness of the landscape. Chapillon’s photography has a captivating texture which gives Les Rochers Fauves its vitality. This technique strengthens a sense of place in the viewer who might not be familiar with the context of the island. The hard details of the rocks, mountains, and dryness of the land are counter-balanced by the blues, whites, and orange tones. Chapillon documents isolation by presenting the rawness and the seclusion of the people, but also the community it brings with itself. As the book pages progress, colours transition in hues. Light and shadow play an important role in the storytelling of the visual narrative. The presence of the light enlivens everyday scenes making them look almost mythical. Taking away the crowds and the hustle makes us focus more on the details. At the same time showing us a different angle of the story.
Les Rochers Fauves throws away the negative views on isolation, life on an island, or aging. The realism of the sceneries guides the viewer through Amorgos and the daily life of its residents. By tracing everyday life, Chapillon’s fly-on-the-wall attitude enables the viewer to get to know the place without prejudice, showing us the poetry in daily routines.
Les Rochers Fauves is available for purchase here.