Aristocrats of the desert. Blue Men of the Sahara. Elegant masters of a vast, hostile expanse. What has become of these august and free nomads? What does their life of settled nomads resemble, after having been forced into a sedentary life by the profound political, economic and climatic changes that impacted their culture?
Motivated by the discrepancy I sensed between the myth veiling them and the reality I had glimpsed, I decided to share the daily lives of Tuaregs in the Algerian Sahara. To see with my own eyes, which for me means with my camera. To have my pictures contribute to the memory of this traditional culture whose foundations started to rock in the early 20th century, a way-of-life for which Modernity holds no place. Theirs is a culture undergoing rapid metamorphosis, and this metamorphosis threatens their culture’s very existence.
Families in Tassili Hoggar villages of settled Tuaregs and semi-nomadic families in Tassili Ajjers encampments allowed me to approach their marginalized lives. Subsisting with difficulty from their goats and desert gardens, these persons living a hand-to-mouth existence welcomed me warmly, simply, allowing me to share their deprivations, their harmony. Each time I stayed with them, a great humility overcame me as I witnessed their adamant will to hold on to a life of liberty while at the same time, the possibility of doing so relentlessly shrinks.
The Tuaregs welcomed me but retained their secrets. Which is just fine. Their mystery remains intact, echoing the mystery of the harsh, scorched landscape surrounding them.
Combine harmoniously the desire for images and the desire to bear witness. Suggest the mystery of these reserved individuals, their calm precariousness, their fragileness. Come to creative terms with the Sahara’s poetic yet often implacable light. Determination and challenge.
The pictures in Silent Lives and the faces in Treg (tuareg for “living unfettered”) represent a collection of moments and gazes (mine, theirs) perceived in the reality of these proud people who hang on to their way of life with a stubbornness rooted in the impression that they are living the end of a myth.