/15 Mountains

Wytske Van Keulen

Sous cloche

Sous cloche brings together two individuals, Andrez and Saskia. Since the summer of 2009, I have been photographing them and their immediate surroundings in the eastern part of the French Pyrenees – an area I’ve continually been drawn to. After a nomadic existence, Flemish-born Saskia was diagnosed with cancer. From then on, she tried to defeat her illness in her own way, without any medical intervention, merely through the strength of her own body and mind. Unable to find a permanent home, she kept moving from place to place, restlessly. After four years, Saskia lost her battle with cancer. Andrez is a Spanish widower who, after the tragic death of his wife and unborn child, decided to live in solitude high up in the mountains. His home consists of two separate places, both of them without electricity or other modern conveniences, from which he tends his cows and those of several neighbouring farmers. Saskia and Andrez never met each other.

Wytske van Keulen portrays people who, for disparate reasons, live their lives as outsiders. Her distinctive method of documenting – at once plain and empathetic – nevertheless resists the stubborn tendency toward marginalisation, whether emanating from society or from solitude. Both movements are revealed as a symptom of existential helplessness. On closer inspection, the position of the outsider can seldom be attributed to either voluntary withdrawal or imposed exclusion. It is necessary to breach this dichotomy and consider the existing condition in all its complexity and subtlety.