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Massat is the chief village of a canton comprising 6 small communes linked by a river, the Arac. The nearest town, Saint-Girons, is 27 km away over a road that winds through a gorge. To travel beyond Massat, you must go up over one of the mountain passes that surround it. This isolation is both a challenge and a source of strength for the community.

The valley of Massat

The valley of Massat has brought together an extraordinarily varied community where 80% of its current population originate from elsewhere in France or abroad. Some arrived by chance, but many had explored the world, France or the Pyrenees before deciding to settle in or around Massat.

The exodus of the former inhabitants in the 19th and 20th centuries - mainly due to poverty – had left the area desolated. The process gradually reversed after the 1970s when the ‘hippy community’ ("les neo-ruraux") arrived and took over the deserted barns. Since then other buildings have been bought and renovated by people from all walks of life seeking an alternative to modern urban life.

I am one of these newcomers, attracted by the wilderness and the sheer beauty of nature of this area, plus its extraordinary human wealth and diversity. I settled here 20 years ago and have had time to witness the many different ways that people have needed to ‘survive’. To record these different ways of living in a photographic project was something that just asked to be done.