Tessa Traeger is a British photographer born in 1938, who trained at the Guildford School of Fine Art and Photography. She has worked in London since the 1960s, and also spent time in the Haut-Vivarais in South-Western France in the 1990s, photographing farmers from the region. Her work mainly consists of still-life and food photography, and is represented in the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
‘La Couronne, Ardèche’ (1994) is a black-and-white photograph of a woman holding a big round loaf of bread on her lap. It is part of the book, Voices of the Vivarais (2010), which tells the story of a collection of individuals living a very traditional lifestyle in a remote mountainous region. Of this series of pictures, Traeger has said that she was looking at a 19th-century culture, and capturing it with 19th-century tools.
In this portrait, the focus on the bread conveys a certain sense of pride and tradition. The title, which translates from French as ‘The Crown’ is used to describe this specific shape of loaf, but is also a symbol of royalty. The photographs’ slightly faded colours, which have come about as a result of polaroid negatives being developed in a sodium sulphide solution, give the piece a sense of nostalgia and melancholia.