Travel

England in the 1970s Through the Lens of an Outsider

Before the construction of the Channel Tunnel, French photographer Gil Rigoulet saw England as a gloriously strange, distant planet.

by Gil Rigoulet
May 25 2016, 12:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE France.

Before the construction of the Channel Tunnel, which was opened for passengers on November 14, 1994, the French tended to see England as a strange, distant land where mohawked punks, drunk teenagers, and conservative grandmothers were living together in perfect harmony. Or that's at least how French photographer Gil Rigoulet saw England. He didn't change his mind when he actually went over in the 70s and 80s, wanting to document the many emerging social and musical movements. "In my eyes, England was the birthplace of amazing musical subgenres," he told VICE. "First, I went there to cover the Reading Festival, where I was surprised to see rockers and bikers happily fight one another. That's something I didn't get to see in my country—extreme movements contrasting with a very traditionalist society."

At that time, loads of French people came to England by ferry. According to Rigoulet, the trip itself was half the adventure. "It was quite a long trip, and people were getting wasted on the way there. Because of the pitching of the boat, there would be vomit everywhere. When we finally arrived, we felt like we were discovering a whole new world with completely different people, cars, and customs." His photos, mostly in black-and-white, aim to show the contrasts that characterized England for him at that time—with the humor and compassion that are distinctive of his work. Rigoulet left these pictures in his archives for 30 years, but he's finally exhibiting them in the galerie 247. in Paris. Here's a selection he sent to us.