Long before Mathieu Vadepied and Omar Sy, the Toulouse photographer Philippe Guionie was passionate about the sad fate of the African Tirailleurs.
The release of Mathieu Vadepied’s film “Tirailleurs”, with Omar Sy, inevitably brought back hundreds of memories to his memory. Toulouse photographer Philippe Guionie spent months and months crisscrossing the African continent and photographing men and women, soldiers too. “I often think of this theme of the African soldier, he confides, this emblematic figure who, over the history books, gradually unravels. It is in any case an “obsessive passion” at the heart of my work: it is a personal, artistic and political quest that I have been exploring and documenting for a long time.Between 1998 and 2008, I made many trips to Africa, built exhibitions, gave conferences and collected numerous documents and testimonials, for example on the question of retirement pensions. Through photography, we can move the lines, not necessarily of the general public, but of politicians”. With an acute awareness of the passage of time and which is gradually abandoning these skirmishers – there are 40 left, says the photographer – Philippe Guionie offers a sensitive and personal approach to this “emblematic figure of the Francophonie: not military, without highlighting before the glory”. And to add, scathingly, “before being skirmishers, they are the result of 150 years of the complex France-Africa relationship”.
The Toulousain has composed in 20 years “a corpus of 200 skirmishers”, which constitutes “the red thread of (s) on work”, and a summative monograph of his work is planned for 2024: “The Tirailleur and the three rivers” will bring together “portraits of men and women, journeys to the Senegal, Niger and Congo rivers” and texts by writers to, finally, “be able to turn this page”.
“A necessary film”
It is assumed that he ran to see Vadepied’s film: “It is a necessary film, carried by Omar Sy as a force of proposal and production – it is certainly not a “great film”; other films lesser known are superior to him, such as “Le Camp de Thirahoye” by Ousmane Sembène, a former Senegalese rifleman, and Thierno Faty Sow, released in 1988, or “Indigènes” by Rachid Bouchareb, in 2006″, estimates the photographer. Before concluding: “The big film on the Skirmishers, it remains to be done”.