From Paris to Mound Bayou
by Anne Hart Preus
Aug 31, 2014 | 3793 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What brings a French photographer and his family from Paris, France, to Mound Bayou, Mississippi?

Edouard Caupeil was covering the presidential primaries in 2008 and came to Jackson for "LeMonde", a French newspaper. A fellow journalist asked about Catholic churches and someone mentioned Mound Bayou so he looked it up and wanted to visit. He came and talked to a priest, wanted to tell the story of the town, and 6 months later returned for "Geo" magazine.

"I wanted to find out about a black town in the south," said Caupeil. "Obama was elected President of the United States and I came back. I expected a lot of joy and celebration, but it was quiet. Some older people were crying. I thought there would be more of a show of excitement, but there wasn't. It was a puzzle—complex."

According to Caupeil, the world was amazed that America would elect a black president and it was a change.

"America is always a surprise," said Caupeil. "I wanted to come back and to look deep. For foreigners like me, we see America as a melting pot and then I found Mound Bayou that is all black. I did not understand the need for an all black town when America had a black president."

"Life does not seem to have changed with the election of Obama," said Caupeil.

Neither Edouard, his wife Sophie, nor son Gaspard had answers.

"The community is safe. People know each other and if there is violence, it seems to be more family related," said Caupeil.

To tell the story of Mound Bayou will require more time. Edouard will be in Mound Bayou for two more weeks and Sophie will return in a week to Paris.

They are staying with a friend Edouard made on previous trips.

This is the eighth visit for Edouard so he has developed many friendships.

Edouard and Sophie decided use their own money so they would have control of the information in the documentary.

Production will continue for two more weeks on the color documentary, which will probably be one and one half hours in length.

"We have so much film and the big problem will be to edit it. Someone will work with me," said Caupeil.

"We hope the people of Mound Bayou will watch this documentary," said Sophie. "For the world it is a discovery story because people don't expect the oldest all black town to be in Mississippi. They don't expect it to be still black and will want to know why."

"I see that radical people don't speak in Mississippi so there is no provocation to change," Caupeil said. "There are things people here are used to that I don't understand. I have never met anger here."

This trip is the second one for Gaspard Caupeil who is 19 years old. He attends college in Belgium and is studying sound engineering.

"I was first amazed by the project and the history," said Gaspard. "As we get deeper into the city and see more, it is not as easy to understand. Things are complex. There are a lot of good things and the community is well organized. You don't see people on the street."

Religion was also a puzzle for the Caupeils who were not used to seeing so many churches in such a small area.

"Religion is more important here than in France. It plays a big part in people's lives, but in France, not many people go to church," said Caupeil.

When asked about meeting young people, Gaspard said he had developed a friendship with a young man on his previous trip.

Now, the friend has a two-year-old child. "That is different for me," said Gaspard.

"We have been welcomed and the community has been cooperative," said Edouard.

Caupeil talked about the issue of race in France and said there were limits regarding race but not strong ones and not segregation.

He said he found people with hope here and people without hope. Both white and black people suffer for what the world does.

"Still the relationship is complicated and the racial issue is part of the story of Mound Bayou," Caupeil said.

There is more information on the Caupeil's web site

The complexity of Mound Bayou brought the Caupeils to Mississippi from Paris, France.

Their documentary will focus on a community that holds fascination for the world.