Thomas Rousset’s Prabérians is a fantastical study of rural French life

Over the course of 12 years, Rousset photographed the village he grew up in, examining its traditions and awakening its creative potential for a new photobook

Over the years, many books, films and documentaries have taken as their premise the rituals of rural life, studying the quirks and foibles of the strange yet loveable characters that can be found in small villages the world over. In photographer Thomas Rousset’s latest body of work, which has been published as a photobook by Loose Joints, the village in question is his childhood home of Prabért, a small community nestled in the French Alps.

Titled Prabérians, the book is the culmination of 12 years spent documenting the local landscapes and people. At the beginning, Rousset had only just immersed himself in the medium and was keen to produce a series of images that stuck very closely to the tradition of documentary. However, as the years passed, he found himself increasingly drawn to a more fictitious mode of storytelling.

In collaboration with the inhabitants of Prabért, Rousset began to build a picture of the village that was steeped in eccentricity. The photos contain various scenes in which the usual signifiers of a rural existence are presented with peculiarity. A small lamb stands with a rope around its neck covered in confetti; two men sit at a table, gazing vacantly at a limp chicken; and a woman lies in a damp field, inspecting the underside of some torn-up earth.

These images, which grow stranger the longer you study them, are interwoven with other images where the oddness is obvious. In one, a figure perches on a high stone wall, staring through binoculars with absurdly long legs dangling below. In another, a man who is painted the same shade as the canoe he is sitting in holds up a reflector, which, at first glance, resembles the moon.

Together, they form a portrait of Prabért that is conscious of both its established history and traditions, as well as its “creative potential”. The latter Rousset attempts to unlock through involving the village’s inhabitants in this dreamlike study of their lives, romanticising the prosaic and embellishing the mundane.

The Prabérians book is presented as “an imposing oversized Swiss-bound hardcover” and includes a fictional “report” on the Prabérians in English and French by writer Felix Bazalgette.

Prabérians is published by Loose Joints;