A few kilometers from Bordeaux, France, the Gironde estuary harbors a string of islands where the river and its tides punctuate the lives of men. Yet three years ago, the island of Trompeloup, near the town of Pauillac, disappeared. I have been familiar with this territory for many years, but it was the loss of Trompeloup that triggered this work.

The various mutations of the river are the pulse of life in this land. Flooding is frequent, and sometimes the islands in the estuary are swallowed by the water. The regular appearance of new sandbanks modifies navigation channels, while breaks are naturally created in the embankments during major thunderstorms that continuously reinvent the cartography of the place.

With the constant metamorphosis of this site, its inhabitants come and go accordingly. The grape harvest is a good time for seasonal workers to have an immersive experience on the island.

Many years ago, the islands were first used as grazing lands; then, in the 19th century, winemakers developed them into vineyards. 600 people lived on the lands at that time. Over the last century, there has been a sharp decline in vineyards in order to make place for grain crops that have lower labour requirements. This has led to the progressive departure of the population and to the neglect of the embankments. Abandoned for good for several years, the islands are once again at the heart of touristic, agricultural and environmental projects.

The series “From Island to Island” proposes a visual dialogue between these constantly shifting and evolving islands and the young farm workers who occupy them in periodic fashion. It takes the form of a poetic investigation, mixing portraits, still lifes and landscapes. The image creates a narrative that interrogates the relationship between the individual and their environment.

Photographed at rest, during a moment of quiet, the young models seem to share the same connection to nature. Often nomadic, they experience this moment of island life as a parenthesis in their movements, a period that favors self-reflection.

This series of images of the estuary islands—land that is constantly restructured, forsaken, and then reoccupied—questions, in a wider sense, our relationship to the earth and time.

—Maitetxu Etcheverria

If you enjoyed this article, we’d also recommend these previous features: At the End of the Day, Laetitia Vancon’s series on the young community living in the remote islands of northern Scotland; Ilona and Maddelena, a long-term portrait project focusing on a pair of sisters from a working-class neighborhood in southern France; and Dale, a series by Juliane Eirich shot at the height of the summer in Norway.