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Expats: Portraits

A photographic essay by Tony Slaughter

My name is Tony Slaughter and I lived from 1985 to 2005 in Brighton, on the south coast of England, where I worked as a full-time journalist and part-time photographer. Then, with my wife Sharon, I moved to Paraza a tranquil south of France village of 500 people on the banks of the Canal du Midi in the Aude, France's second poorest department. So began a new chapter in my life - living more as a European and less as a Brit.

What I discovered, among other things, was the wide variety of European nationalities who had chosen to make their life in this attractive part of France. They were fulfilling the real meaning of being an expatriate : a man or woman who chooses to live full time outside the country in which they were born.

Daniel Thiron Photo By Tony Slaughter
Daniel Thiron Photo By Tony Slaughter

A New Start

The reasons for becoming an expatriate - expat for short - are manifold. Striving for a better life, taking a new job abroad, retiring to a warmer climate, opting for a new start or, perhaps, simply an "adventure". Whatever the reason, the Languedoc-Roussillon has become a magnet for thousands of men, women and children from every country in Europe and beyond.

New Friends

So I decided to set up a small photographic studio in a village near to my home and set about compiling a list of men and women who would take part in my photographic quest.

Out of 32 people I contacted only two refused. I enjoyed taking the studio shots of all the people, most of whom I now count as friends, and I thank them all for their time and patience. I also spoke at length to all my "model expats" and the story each person told was fascinating.

My photos have been well received locally and I have just had an exhibition of my EXPATS portraits in our local art gallery (amongst the paintings and sculpture).

Setting up the Studio

Jenna Forrest Photo by Tony Slaughter
Jenna Forrest Photo by Tony Slaughter

I have a basic two strobe light set up in my studio and have built a support system for the coloured backdrops I bought from Creativity Backgrounds. Because so many of the buildings are ancient in this area, the roof height is great - between six and ten metres!

I first ordered four rolls of paper from Creativity Backgrounds and was delighted with the service I received. The four-for-three offer meant that, in effect, I had free postage to a remote part of France. The rolls arrived in pristine condition and quickly, too. So, I ordered four more rolls and found the service just as good.


Every Picture tells a story

I have set up as an autoentrepreneur (basically a one man business start-up) and have just had my first commission. I have put together a website of my photos (see address below) and now I am hoping find a patron or sponsor who can help me publish a book with the photographs of my exhibition together with the interviews in full. It could make a fascinating social document. And prove the point that every picture tells a story.

Note : all photographs © Tony Slaughter taken in the final quarter of 2011 using a Canon 5D MkII and a polar white backdrop from CREATIVITY BACKGROUNDS.

See more from Tony Slaughter in the Creativity Backgrounds Gallery

Tony Slaughter

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