Scrublands, a Compelling Glimpse on the Lives of People Living Off-the-Grid

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All photographs by Antoine Bruy. Used with permission.

The idea of leaving our basic modern comforts – the Internet, our smart phones, central heating, the ability to go to a store and simply pay for whatever we need is at the least an inconvenience and at the worst a terrifying idea to many of us. But while the majority of the population wouldn’t be willing to let go of modern conveniences, there are some in this world that would gladly give up these comforts for an independent, self-sustaining life off-the-grid.

It is in this group of people, scattered all over the world living in remote, inaccessible areas, and their off-the-grid lifestyle where French photographer and traveller Antoine Bruy, armed with his Mamiya 6, found the subject for his poignant and very illuminating series, Scrublands.

With its subjects once “functioning and useful members of society,” whatever this phrase really means, who have taken to the wild lands to search for a more meaningful life, Scrublands explores the idea of going back to the old ways of life, like raising your own livestock, farming your own land, and having an outhouse for a toilet, despite modernity. At the same time, it offers a glimpse of how that kind of life can not only be possible but also fulfilling and in many ways, more profound.

The imagery that Scrublands presents is so compelling, so strong that it quickly converts the unbelievers and it promptly convinces its spectators that there is a happy and contented life to be found sans all our modern comforts.

We recently caught up with Antoine to talk about his series and his Fotofund crowdfunding campaign to continue the project in the Appalachian Mountains. Read his interview and see some of the photos from Scrublands after the jump.

 

Phoblographer: First of all, tell us about your decision to hitchhike across Europe. And tell us about the experience.

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Antoine: I discovered this way of traveling when I was sixteen, and from one trip to another, I’m always going further for a longer time. This idea of hitchhiking around Europe has been maturing for three years before I finally did it. This experience was intense and very unpredictable, which is pretty much why I like to travel. It’s all about being surprised and ending up in situation I would never have thought about before.

Phoblographer: What photo and camping gear did you take with you during your hitchhike, in case any of our readers are considering doing the same thing you did?

Antoine: I did have a lot with me while I was doing this trip. Clothes of course, a light and rather small tent (I didn’t use it much that much, but every time I did, I was so glad I had it with me), a sleeping bag, a tripod, two cameras (a nikon FM1 with a 35mm to make pictures while I was on the road and a Mamiya 6 with a 75mm to work on the Scrublands project). 

Phoblographer: You shot your very inspirational and illuminating series, Scrublands, during your trip. Did you set out to photograph the subjects in the series from the start or did you just happen upon the idea while travelling?

Antoine: When I started this trip, I knew I was going to work on this project. This is actually the continuity of the series “Les Maquis,” which I started in 2010, but I wanted to go deeper in the project. It was at this point when I started thinking about travelling all over Europe through the different mountain ranges to make the body of work coherent. I didn’t know exactly where I was going to shoot the pictures I made, it was a lot of improvisation.

Phoblographer: We know the Scrublands is a series of photographs of people living off the grid across Europe, but tell me more about it.

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Antoine: I found the people I photograph through the WWOOF network (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I was interested of living with the people and help them, this trip was not only about photography, it was also about experiencing a very different lifestyle that I was used to. 

Phoblographer: How was the experience of living with these individuals, doing what they do, eating what they eat, and essentially partaking in their lifestyle? Was it an eye-opener for you?

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Antoine: Living with them has been a very rich experience. I made some good friends on the way, and I’m going back to visit them and give them a hand. I wouldn’t say it was an eye opener, but it taught me that many things are possible in life, and in most cases we are creating our own barriers to prevent them from happening.

Phoblographer: What was your hardest thing you’ve had to do during your time with them?

Antoine: The hardest thing I did? Good question… I enjoyed most of the things I did, and nothing feels really hard as long as you like what you’re doing.

Phoblographer: What’s next for you, as a photographer, as a traveler? Any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?

Antoine: The first thing I would like to do is finish this project, and this why I’m about to start a crowdfunding campaign on the 11th of August on FotoFund. The plan would be to come to the US to keep working on this project in the Appalachians and probably in Canada as well. The finally stage would be to make a book.

I’m also thinking of working on a new project in Australia about the outback.

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