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Et In Arcadia: the British in France

“the Arcadians are not so much warned of an implacable future as they are immersed in mellow meditation of a beautiful past”. Erwin Panofsky

It is estimated that there are over 150,000 British people living in France. While the majority live in Paris, others are widely distributed across the ‘hexagon’. In comparison to other British ex-pats in European locations (e.g. the costal resorts of Spain), those settled in France express less of a desire to establish a ‘Little England’ (English pubs, fish & chip venues, etc.) and more of a tendency to learn the French language and integrate with the local population.

There are a number of reasons why people have decided to migrate: economic migration, lifestyle migration, education, arts and culture, or the search for a warmer climate. While some have seen their move as expedient and practical, others have taken a more romantic approach, seeing France as offering something of a rural idyll. Some express a yearning for an imagined past: “It’s how England used to be 30 years ago.”However, this vision of Arcadia has been shaken by “Brexit,” leaving British citizens reconsidering their status with some deciding to return to the United Kingdom. 

My portraits are of British citizens living in the Vienne department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in western France. The images concentrate on people, their houses, and the small environments that the British have shaped for themselves; the buildings they have chosen to make their dwellings and the subsequent modifications they have implemented. This perspective, set against the uncertain status of Brexit, anchors the images to a specific historical moment.

 

Exhibition of photographs “In Arcadia: the British in France” by Terence Wright

12-14 November 2018. Visual Research Conference, Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA), Hammer Theater Center, San Jose, California.

Project featured in Jerome W. Crowder, Jonathan S. Marion  2023 Visual Research Taylor & Francis.

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