First snow at Plan du Lac (2,385 m) and on the Grande Casse (3,855 m), September 2016

House and cheese-making workshop of the Bantin family, Chavière, September 2016

An appreciation of cheese might sound like a strange point of departure for a photo project, but sometimes it’s the ‘little’ things that really define our lived experiences. Annecy, France based photographer Nicolas Blandin was eating in a fancy restaurant in Annecy-le-Vieux in 2010 when he first tasted the Termignon blue cheese, a rare variety that is largely unknown in France.

The history of this cheese dates back to the 18th century, and now there are five remaining producers. Their craft has been passed down through generations, and their persistence and knowledge of their environment are evident in Blandin’s photographs.

“The day finally came in 2016 when I got in touch with the Bantin family” he writes. Documenting the remaining traces of the Temignon blue cheese tradition in France’s Vanoise National Park enabled Blandin to combine several passions: using film, which mirrored the slow living pace in the country, spending time in the mountains and learning about those who still maintain strong connections with nature. “Exploring our connection with the land is a recurring theme in my work. In a sense I am coming back to my roots, as my father, who didn’t raise me, was a farmer”.

The natural landscapes in Blandin’s photographs are beautiful and in some ways present an idyllic lifestyle in the hills, but there is also often that encroaching fog which reminds us of the harsh, inhospitable weather mountain farmers must endure. It’s barely Autumn, and already the first snow has fallen. “I have a lot of respect and esteem for what they do, and I hope my images reflect that too”.

The photographs captured to date were only shot over a couple of days; the majority of the time was spent getting to know the Bantin family and people within the community.

Like many photographers, Blandin has found that his camera has been invaluable as a tool for gaining access to the lives of others. “My goal is not to inform, describe or give answers, but rather allow people to engage with a subject that moves me in the first place”.

Blandin was selected by Tiny Atlas Quarterly as a winner of the Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards; on winning he writes: “I am honoured to see that my work and subject resonates with others. It definitely encourages me to carry on the project and go deeper”. Blandin plans to continue this project, following the evolution of this pastoral tradition across the seasons.

Raphaël Bantin’s cattle in Chavière, September 2016

Murielle Bantin and her dog Cookie between her chalet and cheese-making workshop, September 2016.

Marcel Bantin, Termignon, August 2016

Raphaël Bantin’s cattle after the last milking session at the high mountain pasture, September 2016

Lison Bantin, Termignon, August 2016

Marcel Bantin and his dog watching the return of the cattle in Bellecombe, September 2016

All images © Nicolas Blandin