Mathieu Pernot lives and works in Paris, FR


The Gorgans are a Roma family who live on the outskirts of Arles, in the South of France. The family has inhabited the region for generations, but their living and work conditions largely remain those of nomadic subalterns. Their encounters with the political institutions of French and European society are primarily with the police and penal system. Without access to the privileges of so-called normal citizenship, their everyday life is necessarily marked by a continuous invention of the forms of communal existence.


Mathieu Pernot, Mickael, Avignon, 2001, from the series Les Gorgans [The Gorgans], 1995-2015, photograph, dimensions variable © Mathieu Pernot / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022


Mathieu Pernot, Mickael, 2012, from the series Les Gorgans [The Gorgans], 1995-2015, photograph, dimensions variable © Mathieu Pernot / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Mathieu Pernot first met the Gorgans in the mid-1990s. Since then, he has visited the family on a regular basis, producing a large body of photographic work that traces and interacts with the family’s history. The artist has taken part in the family’s joys and misfortunes: the death of the oldest son, Rocky; the imprisonment of Rocky’s brother, Jonathan; the births of new family members Ana and Doston. Over the years, the Gorgans appear to have almost adopted Pernot. His family and theirs now share a common history: they celebrate birthdays and mourn their dead together.

Pernot’s work with the Gorgans straddles socially engaged documentary photography, participatory ethnographic photography, and film. But it also comprises a properly social photography in the sense that the artist’s presence as a photographer, and the images he produces, have been integrated into the aesthetic fabric of the family’s social relations. Just as names of family members are tattooed on their bodies as signs of togetherness and commitment, photographic representations or events serve as icons in rituals of remembrance or community. These images not only depict the reality of a subaltern life, but they also participate in the intimate and joyful creation of forms that establish a “we” of shared history, in spite of and against those conditions.

Kim West


La région humaine, 2021, Le bleu du ciel, Lyon (FR)

Cámara y Ciudad, 2020, CaixaForum Palma, Palma (ES)

Confinement: Politics of Space and Bodies, 2019, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (US)

La santé, 2018, Centquatre-Paris, Paris (FR) (solo)

Les Gorgan, Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris (FR) und La Filature, Mulhouse (FR)