Bourdieu and bourdieu the peasant and photography


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Bourdieu and bourdieu the peasant and photography

  1. 1. ARTICLE graphyCopyright © 2004 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) Vol 5(4): 601–616[DOI: 10.1177/1466138104050701]The peasant and photography■ Pierre and Marie-Claire Bourdieu Collège de France Translated and adapted by Loïc Wacquant and Richard NiceABSTRACT ■ Drawing on an ethnography of the author’s childhoodvillage in southwestern France, this article analyses the social uses andmeaning of photographs and photographic practice in the peasant societyof Béarn in the early 1960s. Photography was first introduced on theoccasion of the great ceremonies of familial and collective life, such asweddings, in which it fulfills the function of affirming the unity, standing,and boundaries of the lineages involved. Such ceremonies can bephotographed because they lie outside the everyday routine and theymust be photographed to solemnize and materialize the image that thegroup intends to present of itself. Thus photos are read and appreciatednot in themselves and for themselves, in terms of their technical oraesthetic qualities, but as lay sociograms providing a visual record ofextant social roles and relations; and they are typically stored away in abox as it would be indecent or ostentatious to display them in one’s home.Peasants use photography strictly as consumers, and then only selectively.The rarity of photographic practice among them is explained not by thenegative determinisms of income or technological familiarity but by thefact that taking pictures is regarded as a frivolous luxury associated withurban ways and an innovation suspect of manifesting the will todistinguish oneself and to rise above one’s rank, which doubly violates theethos of the group. The mandatory photographic posture itself, with itsstress on conventionality, fixity, and frontality, is an extension of thepeasant ethic of honor that sharply limits the taking and using of photosand stands in direct affinity with the style of social relations fostered by a
  2. 2. 602 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) hierarchical and closed society in which the lineage and the ‘house’ have more reality than the particular individuals who compose them. KEY WORDS ■ photography, peasantry, technology, kinship, sentiment, honor, aesthetics, village culture, Béarn, France What explains that photographs and, more specifically, photographic practice occupy such a limited place among the peasantry?1 Does this stem from ignorance, related to a lack of information about modern tech- nologies, or from the will to ignore these, that is to say, a genuine cultural choice that has to be understood by reference to the values specific to peasant society? If the latter hypothesis holds, would not the history of a technology that contradicts those values in what is most essential in them bring to light what makes the core of the peasant ethic? Owing to the duality of its structure, the village of Lesquire, in Béarn,2 offered a veritable experimental situation allowing one to study the diffusion of a modern technology in a peasant milieu and to analyse the relationships that may exist between citadinization, the induction into urban ways, and the appearance and growth of the practice of photogra- phy. The opposition between the bourg (the market-village, with 264 inhabitants in 1954) and the surrounding hameaux (dispersed clusters of farms totalling 1,090 dwellers) is very marked in ecological and morpho- logical terms (the size of families in the hamlets is much larger) and it dominates all aspects of village life. First, it organizes economic life, as the bourg has gradually monopolized all the urban functions since 1918: it is the place of residence of pensioners, civil servants, and members of the professions (who together make up 44.2% of the heads of household), and of craftsmen and shopkeepers (36.6%); agricultural laborers, workers, and landholders make up only a tiny minority (11.5%) of its population, whereas they account for nearly the totality of the population (88.8 %) of the hamlets. Between the last houses of the bourg, where French is spoken, and the first farms, barely a hundred yards distant, where the people speak Béarnais, a language that the villagers regard as inferior and vulgar, there runs a genuine border, that which separates the villagers with urban pretensions from the peasants of the hamlets, attached or chained to their traditions and therefore often deemed as backward (for a fuller analysis of this opposition, see Bourdieu, 1962, 2002).
  3. 3. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 603Solemnizing relations: the photograph as sociogramPhotographic images entered peasant society very early, long before thepractice of taking photographs. They were introduced by the people of thebourg as everything predisposed them to play the role of go-betweenbetween the peasants of the outlying hamlets and the city. Their use rapidlybecame mandatory, especially on the occasion of weddings, because theycame to fulfill functions that pre-existed their introduction. Indeed,photography appears from the very outset as the required accompanimentof the great ceremonies of familial and collective life. If one accepts, withDurkheim (1995), that the function of festivals is to revivify the group,one understands why photography should be associated with them, sinceit provides the means of eternizing and solemnizing these climacticmoments of social life wherein the group reasserts its unity. In the case ofweddings, for example, the image that fixes for eternity the assembledgroup or, better, the assembling of two groups, takes its place in a neces-sary way in a ritual whose function is to consecrate, that is, to sanctionand to sanctify, the union between two groups through the union betweentwo individuals. It is no doubt no accident that the order in which photog-raphy has been introduced into the ritual of ceremonies corresponds to thesocial importance of each of them. The oldest and most traditional usageof photography, explains J.-P.A. (born in Lesquire in 1885), is the weddingphotograph:3 The first time I attended a wedding ceremony where photographs were taken in front of the church must have been in 1903. It was the wedding of a countryman who had relatives in town, that kind of thing. The photogra- pher made everyone take their places on the steps of the church, there, and some were seated and others were standing behind them. He had set things up, with benches, with covers so they wouldn’t get their clothes dirty. There were no cars then yet, but he had come with a car. People talked about that a lot. The groom was an ‘American’ [a local emigrant to America], L., from the Ju. family, a great family, who married the heiress from the R. family. It was a great wedding, what with him coming from America. He would go around with a little mare, a gold chain on his waistcoat. That was the first occasion I remember, perhaps there were others before, but that one really made a splash! The very old folks had never seen that kind of thing before, no. . . . Later, the photographers came forward of their own accord when they knew a wedding was in the offing. . . . They were the ones presenting themselves, the families didn’t have to ask them. Nowadays, people call them in. But it really took off after the Great War, from 1919 onward. The habit of going to Pau to get their picture taken dates back from this moment. . . . It’s the photographer who would come on, who offered his services.
  4. 4. 604 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) Otherwise there are those who would not have called him in, maybe. But once he’s there, they don’t dare say no. Nothing is too expensive on that day. The wedding photograph imposed itself as obligatory so rapidly only because it encountered its social conditions of existence: expenditure and extravagance are part of festive behaviors, in particular the ostentatious outlays that no one can avoid making without derogating honor. These pictures, in the early days, the photographer would go round to see who wanted some. He would collect the names and he sent them afterwards. You had to pay in advance. Oh, it really wasn’t that expensive. It was two francs per person. And nobody dared refuse. And then they were glad to have it in their home after the wedding. The gentleman bought the picture for the lady, it was the thing to do, on a day like that. (J.-P.A.) The group photo was compulsory, anyone who didn’t buy it would pass for miserly (picheprim). That would be an insult to the folks who had invited you. It would show a lack of regard. At the table, you’re in everyone’s sight, you can’t say no. (J.B.) Buying the photograph is a tribute paid to those who made the invita- tion. The photograph is the object of rule-governed exchanges; it enters into the circuit of mandatory gifts and counter-gifts to which weddings and some other ceremonies give rise. Being an officiant whose presence sanctions the solemnity of the rite, the official photographer may be shadowed or seconded by the amateur photographer, but he can never be replaced by him.4 It is only around 1930 that photographs of first communions began to appear while photographs of christenings are even more recent and rare. For the past several years, some peasants have taken advantage of the photographers’ presence at the agricultural shows to have their picture taken with their livestock, but these are a rarity. For christenings, which never give rise to big ceremonies and only involve close family members, photography remains exceptional, but the first communion gives many mothers an opportunity to have a picture taken of their children:5 one cannot but approve of a mother who acts in this manner, and ever more so as the importance of children in society increases. In the old peasant society, a child was never the center of attention, as is the case today. The major festivals and ceremonies of village life were essentially adult events and it is only since 1945 that children’s celebrations (Christmas or First Communion, for example) have become important. As this society devotes more attention to children and, by the same token, to women as mothers, so the habit of having the children photographed is reinforced. In the photo collection of a smallholder of the hamlets (B.M.), portraits of children make up half of the post-1945 pictures whereas there are hardly any (three, to be
  5. 5. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 605precise) in the collection for the years prior to 1939. In those days, onephotographed mostly adults, secondarily family groupings combiningparents and children, and only exceptionally children on their own. Nowthe opposite is the case. But the photographing of children is itself to a largeextent accepted because it has a social function. The division of laborbetween the sexes gives the woman the task of maintaining relations withmembers of the group who live at a distance, starting with her own family.Like letters and better than letters, photographs have a part to play in theperpetual updating of mutual acquaintance.6 It is customary to takechildren (at least once and, if possible, periodically) to visit kin who liveoutside the village, and in the first instance the wife’s mother when the wifecomes from outside. It is the woman who initiates these journeys and whosometimes undertakes them without her husband. Sending a photographhas the same function: through the picture, one presents the new offspringto the whole group that must ‘recognize’ him or her. In this regard, it is understandable that photographs should be the objectof a reading that one may call sociological and that they are neverconsidered in themselves and for themselves, in terms of their technical oraesthetic qualities. The photographer is assumed to know his craft and onehas no basis on which to make comparisons. The photograph must simplyprovide a representation sufficiently faithful and precise to allow recog-nition. It is methodically inspected and observed at length, in accordancewith the logic that governs the knowledge of others in everyday life: throughthe confrontation of knowledges and experiences, one situates each personby reference to his lineage and, often, the reading of old photographs takesthe form of a lecture in genealogical science, when the mother, the specialistin the subject, teaches the child the relationships that link him or her to eachof the persons pictured. But, above all, one inquires to know who attendedthe ceremony and how the couples were made up; each family’s field ofsocial relations is analysed; one notes absences, as indicators of quarrels,and the presences that confer honor. For each guest, the photograph is akind of trophy, a sign and source of social significance (‘You are proud toshow that you were at the wedding,’ says J.L.). For the families of thenewlywed and for the couple themselves, it testifies to the rank of the familyby recalling the number and quality of the guests: the guests of B.M., sonof a ‘small house’ in the hamlets, are mainly relatives and neighbors, theselection principle being traditional, whereas in the wedding photo of J.B.,a well-off inhabitant of the bourg, one sees the work and school ‘mates’ ofthe groom and even of the bride. In short, the wedding photo is a veritablesociogram and it is read as such. The photographing of major ceremonies is possible because – and onlybecause – such pictures capture behaviors that are socially approved andsocially regulated, that is to say already solemnized. Nothing may be
  6. 6. 606 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) photographed besides what must be photographed.7 The ceremony can be photographed because it stands outside the everyday routine and must be photographed because it materializes the image that the group intends to present of itself as a group. What is photographed and apprehended by the reader of the photograph are not, properly speaking, individuals in their singular particularity but social roles – the husband, the boy at his first communion, the soldier – or social relationships – the uncle from America or the aunt in Sauvagnon. For example, B.M.’s collection includes a photo that perfectly illustrates the first type: it pictures his father’s brother-in-law dressed as a town postman, with his peaked cap on his head, a white shirt with stand-up collar, a white-checkered necktie, a deep-cut frockcoat without lapels, on his chest his badge bearing the number 471, and a high waistcoat adorned with gilt buttons and a watch-chain, standing upright, with his right hand resting on an oriental-style stand. What the emigrant daughter sent her family was not the picture of her husband but the symbol of his social success.8 The second type is illustrated by a photograph on the occasion of a sojourn in Lesquire by B.M.’s brother-in-law: it solemnizes the meeting of the two families by uniting uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews. As if the intention were to manifest that the real object of the photograph is not the individuals but the relationships between them, the parents of one family hold in their arms the children of the other.9 In most peasant houses, photographs are kept ‘tight’, stored away in a box, except for the wedding picture and certain portraits. It would be indecent or ostentatious to display pictures of members of the family to anyone who would happen by. Ceremonial photos are too solemn or too private to be exhibited in the everyday living space;10 the only proper place for them is either the display space, the sitting room, or, for the most personal of them, such as the photographs of deceased parents, the bedroom, alongside the pious images, the crucifix, and the blessed palm. Amateur photos are kept in drawers. By contrast, in the petty-bourgeois homes of the village, they acquire a decorative or affective value: enlarged and framed, they adorn the walls of the living room, along with the travel souvenirs. They even invade the altar of family values, the mantelpiece, and take the place of the medals, prizes, and primary school certificates that used to be displayed there in the old days but which the young village wife has discreetly relegated, as rather ridiculous, to the darkest corner, behind the door, so as not to shock the ‘old folks’. A suspect innovation: photographic practice and the peasant ethos Whereas photographic images, and especially wedding photos, were adopted from the outset, without any resistance, by the whole community
  7. 7. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 607as a mandatory moment in the social ritual, photographic practice wasinitially restricted to some isolated amateurs, all belonging to the villagebourgeoisie. In my day, only the squire took photos and a few emplegats [‘employees’, i.e., white-collar workers and professionals]: the tax collector, the tax inspec- tor, the school teachers, and Doctor Co. (J.-P.A.) Even today, whereas among the peasants of the hamlets there is currentlyonly one man, still young and unmarried, who takes photographs, in thebourg there is a small number of more or less active amateurs. If it isstrongly dependent on income, the practice of photography is manifestlylinked to place of residence through the mediation of the degree to whichone adheres or aspires to urban values. In fact, nothing would be moremistaken than to claim to explain the rarity of photographic practice inpeasant society by simple negative determinisms. Neither economic barriers,such as the high cost of the equipment, nor technological barriers, nor eventhe low level of information can account for this phenomenon. Peasants use,and can use, photography strictly as consumers, and then only selectively,because the system of values of which they partake, whose hub is a certainimage of the accomplished peasant, forbids them to become producers. If photography is regarded as a luxury, this is first because the peasantethos requires that expenditure devoted to enlargement of the heritage orthe modernization of farm equipment take precedence over expenditures onconsumption. More generally, any outlay not sanctioned by tradition isconsidered wasteful. But this is not all: innovation is always suspect in theeyes of the group, and not only in itself, that is, as a denial of tradition.People are always inclined to see in it an expression of the will to distin-guish oneself, to stand out, to dazzle or to put down others. And that is anaffront to the principle that dominates the whole of social existence and hasnothing to do with egalitarianism. In fact, irony, mockery, and gossip havethe function of bringing back into line, that is, into conformity and uni-formity, someone who, by his innovative behavior, seems to want to teacha lesson or throw out a challenge to the whole community. Whether this behis intention or not, there is no escaping suspicion. By invoking pastexperience and calling on all the others to witness, one aims to denythat the innovation corresponds to a real need. Thence it can only beostentatious. But collective disapproval is graduated according to the nature of theinnovation and the area in which it is introduced. When it concerns agri-cultural techniques and crop tending, it does not elicit total and brutalcondemnation because, in spite of everything, the innovator is given thebenefit of the doubt: appearances notwithstanding, his behavior may beinspired by the most praiseworthy motives, namely, the will to increase the
  8. 8. 608 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) value of his heritage. In such cases, he betrays the peasant tradition but he remains a peasant. Moreover, moral condemnation can take the guise of the skepticism of the technician and of the man of experience: the sanction of the enterprise will be found in its own results. In any case, because he runs the risk of failure or ridicule, the innovator commands respect. By contrast, the community experiences innovation that it suspects to be shorn of any rational or reasonable justification as a challenge and a disavowal. This is because, in the manner of a gift that excludes a counter- gift, ostentatious behavior, or behavior perceived as such, puts the group in a position of inferiority and can only be experienced as an affront, with everyone feeling assaulted in his or her self-esteem. In that case, reproof and repression are immediate and merciless. ‘What is he playing at? Who does he take himself for?’ As a sign of status, photographic practice can only be seen as expressing an effort to rise above one’s rank. This will to distinguish oneself is then countered by a reminder of the common origins: ‘We know where he came from.’ ‘His father wore clogs!’11 A frivolous luxury, the practice of photography would for a peasant be a ridiculous barbarism; to indulge in such a fantasy would be rather like a man taking a stroll along with his wife, on a summer evening, as the pensioners of the bourg do: That’s fine for vacationers, those are things of the city. A peasant who would walk around with a camera hanging over his shoulder would be no more than a failed monsieur (u moussu manquât). You need delicate hands to handle those things. And what about the money? It’s expensive. All that paraphernalia costs a bundle! (F.M.) Associated with urban life, the practice of photography is apprehended as a manifestation of the wish to play the urbanite, to act the part of the gentleman (moussureya). And so it is seen as a betrayal of the group by a parvenu. ‘S’en-monsieurer’ (literally, to ‘en-mister’ oneself, en-moussuri’s in Béarnais) is a twofold offence against the fundamental imperatives of the peasant ethic. It means in effect standing out by disowning oneself as a member of the group and as a peasant.12 One admits of the true urbanite, who is a complete outsider to the group, that he takes photographs because that is part of the stereotyped image the peasant has of him. The camera is one of the distinctive attributes of the ‘vacationer’ (lou bacanciè). Peasants will indulge the latter’s fantasies, with a touch of irony, by taking up the expected pose, in front of the yoke of oxen, thinking: ‘These people have time to waste and money to squander.’ There is much less tolerance toward natives of the village who return from the town, and still less toward inhabi- tants of the bourg who are suspected of taking up photography to give themselves the air of city-dwellers. In other words, what is refused is not photography in itself; as the whim and frivolity of an urbanite, it suits
  9. 9. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 609Taking up the expected pose for the visiting tourist.‘outsiders’ perfectly – but them alone. In this domain, the innovatorybehavior of the city-dweller cannot elicit imitation because the tolerance itenjoys is but an expression of the will to ignore it or a refusal to identifywith it.13 However, just as it varies according to the nature of the innovation,the reproof also varies according to the social position and status of theinnovator. The logic of selection that governs borrowings and, by the sametoken, the values that dominate this selection, can be apprehended notonly in the defences that the peasant ethos raises against everything thatthreatens it, but also and especially in the exceptions that it concedes. Ifphotography can be allowed for women or, better, for mothers, as it thenserves socially approved purposes, and if, as a frivolous activity, it is
  10. 10. 610 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) tolerated in adolescence, the frivolous time of life, these are transactions and compromises with the rule that spring from the very values of which the rule partakes. Thus teenagers have always held a statutory right to a licit – that is to say symbolic and oneiric – frivolity; so the same is true for photography as for dancing and more generally for all the techniques of courtship and festivity: ‘They make photos when they get enamoured with one another (cuan s’amourouseyen), in the days of dancing.’ Out in the country, soon as a couple is married, there are other things to think about. Be., the richest peasant, he took some photos at his engagement ceremony and in the early days of his marriage. Now they live on a shoe- string (ils tirent la guignorre), even more than smallholders like us. Little whims like that are soon dropped when cares of the household come, and so is the wish to dance. All that’s quite natural, in my view. And then, for photographs, the professionals are there when you need them, for the big occasions at least. (R.M., from Debat, a village in the Gave valley, 10 kilo- meters from Lacq) These practices, acceptable for young people, are in any case abandoned from the moment of marriage, which marks a sharp break in the course of existence: from one day to another, it is over with village balls or outings, and thus with the photography sometimes associated with them. ‘I stopped after my honeymoon,’ says J.B. ‘. . . Now I have plenty of other things to worry about.’ And his wife chipped in: ‘Oh, too right, he’s got other things to worry about now.’ This man, who once took much pride in recounting his holidays in Biarritz or his visits to Paris, who says that he does not have the leisure to take photos although he spends a lot of time hunting wood pigeons, now talks insistently only about his work, the only activity worthy of a responsible adult man. Photographic posture and the sentiment of honor Even the posture that the peasant adopts in front of the camera seems to express peasant values and more precisely the system of models that govern relations with others in peasant society. Individuals generally present them- selves face-on, in the center of the picture, standing and full-length, that is to say at a respectful distance. In group photos they stand close together, often with their arms over each other. Their gazes converge on the lens so that the whole image points to its absent center. When a couple is portrayed, they hold each other by the waist in an entirely conventional pose. The norms of conduct in front of the lens sometimes rise to consciousness, in positive or negative form: a member of a group assembled for a solemn occasion such as a wedding who adopts a casual posture or fails to look
  11. 11. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 611straight at the camera and to take up the pose is the object of disapproval.He is, as the phrase goes, ‘not really there’. To take part in a photograph is to grant the testimony of one’s presence,which is the mandatory counterpart of the tribute received in being invited;it testifies that one values the honor of having been invited to take part andthat one takes part in order to give honor.14 How would the arrangementand posture of the participants not be marks of solemnity? No one wouldthink of infringing upon the photographer’s instructions, of talking to hisneighbor, of looking elsewhere. That would be a breach of propriety andespecially an affront to the whole group and, first and foremost, to thosewho are chiefly ‘honored on that day,’ the bridal couple. The proper anddignified stance consists in standing up straight and looking straight aheadwith the gravity that befits this solemn occasion. It is not unreasonable to think that the spontaneous search for frontal-ity is linked to the most deeply embedded cultural values.15 In this societythat exalts the sentiment of honor, dignity, and responsibility, this closedworld in which one feels at every moment and without escape the unremit-ting gaze of others, it is important to present the most honorable image ofoneself to others: the fixed, rigid posture, of which the soldier’s ‘standingto attention’ is the limiting case, seems to be the expression of this uncon-scious intention. The axial image, conforming to the principle of frontality,offers an impression that is as clearly readable as can be, as if one worriedto avoid any misunderstanding or confusion. The same intention manifestsitself in the embarrassment felt by the photographed subject, the concernto rectify one’s posture and to wear one’s best clothes, and the instinctiverefusal to be caught in everyday dress, doing everyday things. To take theproper pose is to respect oneself and to ask for respect. The subject offersthe viewer an act of reverence, of courtesy, that is governed by conventionand requests the viewer to obey the same conventions and the same norms.He ‘faces up’ (fait front) and asks to be looked at frontally and from adistance, this demand for reciprocal deference constituting the essence offrontality. The photographic portrait thus performs the objectivation of theself-image. As such, it is simply the limiting case of the relationship withothers.16 Everything takes place as if, by obeying the principle of frontality andadopting the most conventional posture, one sought to take charge, insofaras is possible, of the objectification of one’s own image. To look at the otherwithout being seen, without being seen looking and without being lookedat, to ‘steal a glance’ as the phrase goes, and, moreover, to photograph themin that way, is to steal the other’s image. By looking at the person who looksat me (or photographs me), by arranging my posture, I offer myself to belooked at as I want to be seen; I give the image of myself that I intend togive and, quite simply, I give my image. In brief, faced with a gaze that fixes
  12. 12. 612 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) and immobilizes appearances, to adopt the most dignified, the most sober and the most ceremonial attitude, to stand stiffly upright, feet joined together, arms flat by the sides, in the manner of a soldier standing to atten- tion, is to reduce the risk of awkwardness and clumsiness and to present to the other a regulated, prepared, primed image: to give a regulated image of oneself is a way of imposing the rules of one’s own perception. The conventionality of the posture and dress adopted for photographs would seem to derive from the style of social relations fostered by a society at once hierarchical and static, in which the lineage and the ‘house’ have more reality than the particular individuals who compose them, defined as they are essentially by the groups they belong to,17 where the social rules of conduct and the moral code are more manifest than the feelings, the wills, or the thoughts of singular subjects, where social exchanges, strictly regu- lated by consecrated conventions, are enacted in dread of the judgment of others, under the gaze of a collective opinion quick to condemn in the name of norms indisputable and undisputed, and are always dominated by the concern to present the best possible image of oneself, the one best conform- ing to the ideal of dignity and honor.18 Solemnization, hieraticism and eternalization are inseparable. In the language of all aesthetics, frontality expresses the eternal, by opposition to depth, through which temporality is reintroduced. In painting, the plane expresses being or essence, in a word, the timeless (see Bonnefoy, 1959). If an action is depicted within it, it is always an essential movement, ‘immobile’ and outside of time; it is – the words themselves say it well – the equilibrium or poise of an eternal gesture, like the ethical or social norm that it embodies: spouses standing with their arms around each other express in another gesture the same meaning as the joined hands in the portrait bust of Cato and Portia in the Vatican. Popular photography eliminates the accidental or the aspect, which, as a fleeting image, dissolves the real by temporalizing it. The ‘snapshot’, the picture ‘taken from life’ – which is the expression of a worldview born in the Quattrocento with perspective – cuts out an instantaneous slice into the visible world and, petrifying human action, immobilizes a unique state of the reciprocal relationship between things, and arrests the gaze on an imper- ceptible moment in a never-completed trajectory. By contrast, the posed photograph, which only grasps and fixes figures who are settled, motion- less, in the immutability of the plane, loses its power of corrosion.19 Thus, when they spontaneously adopt the arrangements and postures of the figures of Byzantine mosaics, the peasants of Béarn who pose for a wedding photo seem to want to escape the power that photography has to de-realize the world by temporalizing it.
  13. 13. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 613AcknowledgementsThis article is the translation of Pierre and Marie-Claire Bourdieu, ‘Le paysanet la photographie’, Revue française de sociologie, vol. 6, no. 2, April–June1965, pp. 164–74. It is published here in English for the first time by kindpermission of Jérôme and Marie-Claire Bourdieu and the journal. The sectiontitles are by the translators.Notes 1 This article presents, in a provisional form, documents and data that were also used in part in a book published simultaneously, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art (Bourdieu et al., 1965). 2 Lesquire is the pseudonym of the isolated village in this mountainous region of southwest France near the Spanish border where Pierre Bourdieu spent his childhood years. It is the site where he carried out fieldwork on gender and kinship relations among the peasantry in 1959–61 and subsequent years, in parallel to similar work among the Kabyles of Algeria [translator]. 3 J.-P.A., 85, a widower with a primary school education, lived in the bourg at the time of the study, but he had spent all of his youth in a hameau. Interviews with him alternated between French and Béarnais. 4 The photograph marks the transition from religious ritual to secular ritual, the wedding party; it is taken on the doorstep of the church. 5 As at wedding parties, here too the photograph takes its place in the circuit of ritually imposed exchanges. It is added to the ‘memory image’ that the child brings to relatives and neighbors in exchange for a gift. 6 The sending of photographs that follows a wedding generally triggers a resurgence of correspondence: ‘The “exiles” ask that the couples featured on the photo be identified, especially the youth of whom they’ve only known the parents’ (A.B.). 7 ‘No, the photographer never takes pictures of the ball. That has got no value in people’s eyes. I’ve never seen any’ (J.L.). 8 Similarly, among the photographs displayed in the villagers’ homes, one often sees the annual photo of the rugby team, lined up in a formal pose, and only very rarely shots of them in action, which are relegated to the ‘photo box’. 9 Most of the more recent photos in B.M.’s collection were taken by amateurs. Some of the pictures of B.M.’s wife and daughter were shot during visits to his wife’s brother’s wife (who lives in Oloron, a small town about 80 kilometers away), on the occasion of the market or the fair: the children are lined up at the front and the adults stand behind them. As for the other amateur photos, like the one just described they were taken
  14. 14. 614 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) during the visit by the brother-in-law from Paris. Four of them stand apart, at first sight: those that show B.M., in front of his oxen, his goad on his shoulder, and his nephew in the same posture. Are they actual snapshots of everyday life? In reality, they are posed and allegorical: on the one hand, the little Parisian, playing at being a peasant; on the other, not B.M. as a singular person but the postcard-picture of Béarn featuring a peasant leading his oxen, his body upright, his beret aslant over his ear, his agulhade on his shoulder. 10 The major common room, the kitchen, receives only an impersonal decor- ation, everywhere the same: the charity calendar from the postman or the fire brigade and colour prints bought in Pau (the closest city, a dozen miles away) or souvenirs of a pilgrimage visit to Lourdes. 11 ‘He wants to take photos! He’s becoming a real mister (s’en-monsieure), isn’t he! Soon he’ll be taking pictures of the pigs and the pigsty.’ ‘He’d do better to change his plough and that wretched pair of cows he’s got to plough with!’ ‘A gadget like that, and with that lousy suit!’ 12 This explains the ambiguous attitude of the peasant towards the civil servant employed in the bourg. On the one hand, as the representative of the central administration and trustee of governmental authority, he is imbued with respect and consideration. But, on the other hand, the man of the bourg is truly the bourgeois, the man who has deserted the land and broken or disowned the bonds that tied him to his original milieu. 13 Most of the peasants who were questioned on this mentioned relatives who have taken up photography since they left the village. But a peasant who sees the sister or cousin, son or brother, who left to work in a factory, coming back with a camera, is justified to associate photography with the shift to urban ways. That being so, far from enticing him to imitation, such examples, even when they concern close relatives, only confirm his convic- tion that photography is ‘not for us’. 14 ‘If you attended somebody’s wedding and you didn’t go for the photo, people noticed that. You weren’t in the group, they said that M. wasn’t in the photo. They reckoned you slipped away, and it was taken badly’ (J.L., to her husband, in the course of an interview). 15 Among the Kabyles, the man of honor is a man who ‘faces up’, who holds his head high and looks others in the face, with his own face uncovered (Bourdieu, 1965). 16 Photography is the situation in which the awareness of one’s body-for- others reaches its highest acuity. One feels subjected to a gaze and to a gaze that fixes and immobilizes appearances. [Trans.: On the social bases of bodily embarrassment among the peasants and its structural consequences, see Bourdieu, 1962, excerpted in this issue as ‘The Peasant and his Body’.] 17 It is not uncommon for a younger son who marries an eldest daughter and comes to live with her parents to lose his surname and thus to be
  15. 15. Bourdieu ■ The peasant and photography 615 designated only by the name of his new house. [Trans.: Kinship relations and the reproduction of lineage hierarchy in Béarn are discussed at length in Bourdieu (1990[1980]: 147–61).]18 Wilhelm Hausenstein (1913: 759–60) brings to light the connection between the frontal view and the social structure of ‘feudal and hieratic societies’.19 Once again, an exception is made for the children, perhaps because change is their very nature: where the aim is to capture the ephemeral and the acci- dental, photography is suitable since it cannot snatch the fleeting aspect from irrecoverable disappearance without constituting it as such.ReferencesBonnefoy, Yves (1959) ‘Le temps et l’intemporel dans la peinture du Quattro- cento’, in L’Improbable et autres essais. Paris: Mercure de France. (Trans. ‘Time and the Timeless in Quattrocento Painting’, in N. Bryson (ed.) Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France, pp. 8–26. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.)Bourdieu, Pierre (1962) ‘Célibat et condition paysanne’, Études rurales 5–6 (April): 32–136 (excerpted in this issue as ‘The Peasant and his Body’).Bourdieu, Pierre (1965) ‘The Sentiment of Honour in Kabyle Society’, in J.G. Peristiany (ed.) Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society, pp. 191–241. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.Bourdieu, Pierre et al. (1965) Un Art moyen. Essais sur les usages sociaux de la photographie. Paris: Éditions de Minuit. (Trans. Photography: A Middle- Brow Art. Cambridge: Polity Press; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989.)Bourdieu, Pierre (1990[1980]) The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Bourdieu, Pierre (2002) Le Bal des célibataires. La crise de la société paysanne en Béarn. Paris: Points/Seuil. (Trans. The Ball of the Bachelors. Cambridge: Polity Press; Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.)Durkheim, Emile (1995[1912]) The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (trans. and with an intro. by Karen E. Fields). New York: Free Press.Hausenstein, Wilhelm (1913) Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 36 (February).■ PIERRE BOURDIEU held the Chair of Sociology at the Collègede France, where he directed the Center for European Sociologyand the journal Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales until hispassing in 2002. He is the author of numerous classics of sociologyand anthropology, including Reproduction in Education, Society,
  16. 16. 616 E t h n o g r a p h y 5(4) and Culture (1970, tr. 1977), Outline of a Theory of Practice (1972, tr. 1977), Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1979, tr. 1984), Homo Academicus (1984, tr. 1988), and The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Artistic Field (1992, tr. 1996). Among his ethnographic works are Le Déracinement. La crise de l’agriculture traditionnelle en Algérie (with Adbelmalek Sayad, 1964), Algeria 1960 (1977, tr. 1979), The Weight of the World (1993, tr. 1998), and Le Bal des célibataires (2002). ■ ■ MARIE-CLAIRE BOURDIEU is an art historian. ■ The picture in this article © Pierre Bourdieu/Fondation Pierre Bourdieu, Geneva. Courtesy: Camera Austria, Graz.