“Whenever the emails pile up or the traffic grinds to a crawl, many of us fantasize about leaving it all behind and unplugging from the grid. The people in Antoine Bruy’s ongoing photo series “Scrublands” have actually followed through, disconnecting from the trappings of modern life even when it means jumping into a new lifestyle they know nothing about.
“I wanted to meet them and see how they managed to learn something which they were not used to,” says Bruy, who lives in France. “Most of the people are not from farming families or anything.”
Bruy has been photographing around Europe for the project since 2012, visiting some 15 encampments in his home country as well as in Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Wales. He’s focused on those who survive as sustenance farmers, by raising livestock, or hunting. Now he’s holding a crowdfunding campaign because he’d like to extend the project to the United States, the country whose history he says inspired many of his subjects.
Scrublands 1
“I still want to meet the people who decided to leave the American society, to hide in places where they could live differently,” he says. “I guess there are many people like this in America.”
Bruy spends weeks living with his subjects, taking part in the day-to-day and engaging in their way of life as he seeks to portray it on film. The portraits show farmers, homesteaders, herders—all of whom seem at once weary and at peace with the toil of making their lives in the wilderness.
Among the beautiful landscapes are the signs of how people use found items or appliances from the “civilized” world and the raw materials of their environments to survive. Along with the homes they’ve built, these details express something more about their identity and aesthetics, in addition to showing how resourceful they have to be in providing for themselves. Of course, “getting away from it all” is a choice, and it isn’t necessarily a romantic notion for everybody.
Scrublands 3
“I think if I’m showing these pictures to someone living in [poverty], they’ll probably say that these guys are pretty crazy,” he says. “It could be seen as they are going back to the stone age or something…There’s people who had resources, and that’s how actually they managed to find a place, to buy the land, and to build houses. But there are other people I met who just couldn’t live in a city.””
Scrublands 2
For Antoine Bruy’s Scrublands, see:

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