7th AUGUST 1960:

A photographic document by Christian von Alvensleben

Provence, South of France. It is Sunday, eight o’clock in the morning. I take my camera, films and a bottle of water and start off on my hike from Manosque to Montjustin.

In a good two hours’ time I will be meeting a fellow German there who is working on a farm. His name is Hubert Fichte and he is from Hamburg too. My school holidays are almost over and I want to capture this penultimate day of my vacation in Provence in a photographic documentary.

The first pictures I take are still of Manosque: A man in front of a door reading his Sunday paper and enjoying the fresh morning air, an old lady waiting for the first bus and the washer woman who has no day off on Sunday as always.

Now I have been en route for an hour already and the dusty path is getting steeper. A priest hurries past. A dry hot wind gets up and makes me feel parched. Some farmers are threshing their corn by the side of the path and we enjoy a glass of water together.

Then the old walls of the Fiorio family’s farm become visible on Montjustin. I have arrived. On the hilltop at the entrance to the house Hubert Fichte is waiting for me and introduces me to the family. After a welcome drink in the cool house he asks me to follow him.

I feel that my camera offers Hubert Fichte the possibility of documenting his everyday rural life for the future, because he never tires of showing me everything during the entire afternoon.

We go to the field of sweet corn, across the meadows to the sheep and to the stony edge of the slope in order to admire the “Cézanne landscape” in the valley. It is early evening before we return to the house.

Now Hubert Fichte is typing something on an old typewriter, Serge Fiorio is drawing a delicate landscape and I take a photograph of both of them, then of Serge’s sister and her son and of the old father Fiorio on the step in front of the house.

Later we all sit around a wooden table eating roast lamb, bread and salad and drinking red wine. The father tells us about the family’s history, including that of great-grandmother Fiorio. At the turn of the century she used to cook and care for the labourers making a dam in the French alps. When the dam was finished she blew it up – she did not want to loose her job. Fichte loves this anarchic story.

It is almost midnight when I sit next to him in a grey 2cv. The canvas roof is folded right back. The moon is full, we see the landscape as if through dark sunglasses and drive without headlamps and brakes round the narrow bends into the valley to Manosque. We both really enjoy that drive.

That was the first and last time that I met Hubert Fichte.

Christian von Alvensleben, May 2005