Pont du Parayre, Le Ruisseau d’Audiernes, Peyrusse le Roc, France. Meaning, “Bridge Parayre, The Stream of Audiernes, Peyrusse le Roc, France”.
This is one of my personal favorite photos. Perhaps due to the emotion that I feel when I think of the day that I spent with friends getting this shot at such an historic culturally rich location, but certainly this little bridge had a lot to do with it.
The story behind the photo.
I was perusing the interwebs one day looking at medieval castles and stonework – Doesn’t everyone? – when I came across a rather primitive photo of an arched bridge in France. It was just a simple snapshot, but for some reason it captured me. I did some research and found out the location, as well as a few more photos.
In time I was fortunate to have been invited to France by my dear friend Frederique. (Truly one of the most beautiful and kind people that I’ve ever met, and an excellent photographer and guide.) During a conversation with her prior to travelling there we talked of photographic possibilities and I asked her about this bridge and if she knew where it was. She replied that she did indeed know where it was and that we would go there on my trip. I could hardly believe it and I got excited every time that I thought about it until the day that we arrived there.
It was a perfect day for the visit. We arrived early in the day after a drive through the beautiful south central French countryside in a soft rain. It’s what I would expect for a January day in France, and not much different than a typical January day here in Oregon. The creek was full of water fortunately as it can dry up in the summer months. The foliage was sparse due to the time of the year, but the scene was wet and luscious.
The the village Peyrusse le Roc, founded around 767 AD, whose original name was Petrucia, was a substantial town with a population of around 3500 people at its peak, while today the little town has no more than a couple hundred residents. The town was supported by local silver and lead mines until they closed up around 1400. Abandoned and in ruins there, are no less than twelve impressive medieval stone structures including the ruins of the Notre-Dame-de-Laval Church, a 14th century king’s tomb, two amazing bell towers and several other incredible stone structures in various stages of ruin.
The ancient village was built on the side of a wooded canyon with fairly steep but negotiable pathways connecting each of its levels, structures and features with the main village being at the top. The trail itself being, most likely, older than the village itself, makes its way down to the creek where this little roman style arch bridge resides. The area surrounding the bridge has some faint rock ruins here and there that tell of a day when a small mill of some sort existed there, but this bridge stands alone as a testament to the skill of its skilled builder. The bridge itself shows no sign of collapse or structural weakness, but does show worn grooves in its roadbed rock indicating wear from countless carts, beasts of burden and the footfall of people travelling over it in the last thousand years.
As I stood there I leaned on the rock of this bridge and wondered if the bridge was a conduit of connection between the builder and I. I could visualize him standing there proud of his work, leaning against the same stone and wondering if some day, perhaps a thousand years in the future, if someone would take the time to think about him.
To visit a location such as this that’s so rich in such ancient human history was incredible to me. I feel this way every time that I’m in an historic location with such a rich cultural history. I have sat in the doorways of ancient Anasazi ruins in remote canyons in the American southwest and have had the same feelings of connection to those who had been there before me.
As it was, I was hesitant to leave this amazing place as I kept turning and looking back until I could no longer see this little bridge, but left feeling satisfied and happy.
Each year since then, over the last five years, I have pulled this photo out to try to, in some way, process it into the image that my mind and memory evokes of that day, but I hardly ever feel that I do it justice. I have a feeling that my exercise may be more a melancholy reminiscence than an exercise to perfect a photograph, but what artist should feel so lofty in their confidence to claim to be able to do nature or memories their justice anyhow, but why not make it a goal?
I will return to this location again someday. And when I do I will know just how to shoot it next time. Perhaps I won’t be so overcome in the experience of being there to not take the time to stop and be thorough and find that special comp, or to wait until the light is right. Perhaps then I’ll be able to claim that I’ve done this little bridge the justice that it deserves. Until then I’ll pull this photo out once a year and process it one more time, remembering that special day every time that I do and questioning the reason that I am.