Photo by @williamalbertallard
In September and October of 1967, I was in the Pyrenees mountains photographing the French and Spanish Basque country. It was my first freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine after having just resigned a staff position I’d held for not quite three years. I received the assignment purely by chance, getting it after another photographer had made a brief start and then turned it down. I was sent as his replacement. I was to turn thirty-years-old at the end of that September and did so one evening in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, drinking the Basque liquor Izzara and rereading Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls.
One early evening on my wanderings the sun had descended but clouds were reflecting light that fell softly on a narrow, gently curving road leading to the French village of Behorleguy. I was standing by the edge of the road. I heard a woman’s voice calling from the village below, a white church steeple rising from its midst. Within seconds I heard the barely audible sound of someone approaching from behind and as I turned I saw two little girls running toward the village, one was in a yellow dress, and as they passed their feet made a soft pitter-patter. I raised my Leica and tried to frame them, making two quick exposures. It was one of those rare times when I felt that nudge within me, thinking that if I didn’t miss it this could be something special. Months later when I returned home and viewed my film at the Geographic’s office I saw the two frames. One was an absolute failure, a blur, a throw away frame although I wish now that I’d kept it. The other was what has become one of my favorite pictures, although not my most favorite; there is no such single frame. The light is soft and the color as if drawn from a box of pastels. And the children are not running nor skipping, they are floating, as if in a state of grace and innocence. I will never tire of looking at this picture. It fulfills me in a way not many do.
#followme @williamalbertallard for more images from the Basque Country and other assignments spanning five decades.
#basque #basquecountry #pyrenees #childhood #children #home #pastel #mountain