England in the 1970s Through the Lens of an Outsider

Back when he could only get to England by ferry, French photographer Gil Rigoulet saw it as a gloriously strange, distant planet.

by Gil Rigoulet
25 May 2016, 12:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE France

Before the construction of the Channel Tunnel, which was opened for passengers on November 14th, 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 came 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 us. "First, I went there to cover the Reading festival, where I was surprised to see rockers and bikers happily fight each other. 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 pictures, mostly in black and white, aim to show the contrasts that characterised England for him at that time – with the humour 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, France. Here's a selection he sent to us.