Yannick brings over deux grandes crèmes for Dorothy and me. Although it is early June the air is cool as we sit in the shade outside his brasserie, La Merelle. Dorothy warms her hands on the cup as she raises it to her lips. Cup? More a bowl with a handle. I could beat eggs to make an omelette for half a dozen people in such a cup. Only the top of her head is now visible.
“You know about the festival?” Yannick enquires. He has the build of a rugby forward. Not a person you would compare to "white goods" like a footballer, but compact, hard, deceptively slight. His English is good (though not perfect) because he served his time working in a London kitchen.
“Yes, we visited last year,” I reply. He moves discreetly away. After a quiet conversation with Yannick a man settles his bill, climbs into a car, and drives off across the cobbles. I toy with my camera and snap shoot at the passersby. I self-consciously nurse the camera, attempting to shield it from the public gaze.
It isn't that I have any reservations about photographing strangers, or that the streets of La Gacilly don't provide ample picturesque subject matter. It's because I feel unworthy. For the past four years this town has given its walls over to an extraordinary festival of photography. There are plenty of galleries here - for nearly two centuries, this area of Brittany has been popular with both amateur and professional artists - but during the summer months the streets of La Gacilly themselves become the gallery. The warm, ivy-bound stone of the buildings provides subtle hanging spaces for the enormous images.
This year (2008), La Gacilly hosts its 5th Photo Festival, People and Nature. This is a poor translation of the words that mean so much more, Le Festival Photo Peuples & Nature de La Gacilly. Peuple is not just the collective noun for a group of humanity. Rather, it is an assembly that shares a culture or nationality. It has a sense that is primarily tribal.