Art director Anna Sullivan happened upon an unusual postcard from the 1930s that depicted a group of shepherds—but not as you would expect. These shepherds were standing on stilts, a common practice amongst those who worked the marshy region of Landes in southern France during the 18th and 19th century. It was a discovery that prompted a rather unusual concept for a photo shoot.
Intrigued by this seemingly strange practice, Sullivan delved deeper into the tradition of stilt walking. The Landes region borders on the Bay of Biscay—today home to Europe’s largest maritime forest, looked quite different during the 18th and 19th century. The plain was soft and marshy, and its heath coverage was periodically razed by fire to create grazing land for the local’s sheep. These sheep were cared for by shepherds who traversed the land on stilts, an unusual form of transportation that extended their field of vision and allowed them to cover large distances quickly without being bogged down in the wet ground.
Today, such stilt walking is still practiced by the French folk club, Lous Esquiros. Working with the members of this group, along with stylist Samira Fricke and photography duo Hill & Aubrey, Sullivan has created a unique series of photographs in Landes that act as a fashionable ode to the history of the place and its people.