In some twenty years, Charles Fréger has established himself as a portraitist of communities, in their collective and individual dimensions, drawing up, through photographic inventory, typologies of ways of living, for the individuals who make up his community of heritage or election. Visual sign of belonging and rallying, the uniform, if not the costume, from the most formal to the most “wild”, constitutes the central motif of his work.
For this new opus, the French photographer has travelled through a clearly defined territory, the geographical borders of historical Brittany, in which he has installed a frame, that of a life-size filter giving this particular texture to his images. The inventory drawn up here is that of Breton headdresses. Young girls wearing starched cotton and lace, for work or for ceremonies, pose in front of this background, planted in the middle of a field, on the side of a country church or solidly anchored on a windy seaside plateau. Behind them, often, their peers are busy, children or mothers, cousins or friends, kept at a distance in a cottony mist. In this constant back and forth between the particular and its whole, so characteristic of the artist’s work, the photographs are both portrait and genre scene, and bring together in the same frame, both the detail of an elaborate lace and the monumental contours of a silhouette. Charles Fréger proposes to continue the tradition of Breton imagery, mixing in his compositions influences from nineteenth-century realist painting, from that of the Nabis, to the settings of postcards of the interwar period.
Portraits with four pins for proud women and well of their time. This is what Bretonnes affirms, by the scope of the photographic enterprise deployed, a manifesto that resonates beyond the borders of this region alone: the vitality and contemporaneity of traditions that we would be too quick to dismiss as folklore. Looking at Charles Fréger’s work, one might even be tempted by the idea that globalization, far from killing it, has strengthened this human desire to be “as one”.