Napoleon & the N12

by Kasper Nybo Photography


December 16, 1811. Napoleon is the reigning self proclaimed God of France. A milestone is put in the ground in front of Notre Dame, Paris. This day marks the creation of the first fourteen Imperial Highways in France, all radiating out of Paris, the vibrant heart of an explosive empire. The roads would be the life giving veins of a stretched out body, transporting goods and people in a constant flow to and from the capitol. Rural villages were eager to get the roads through their towns and profit from the promised land of commerce in serving the fastest access routes to the capitol.

July 2012, fast-forwarding 200 years. France is covered in an extremely efficient network of roads. The Imperial Highways, now renamed Route Nationale, covers 30.500 km. alone and many more than the original fourteen roads have been created. The majority still departs from the gates of Paris.

In the countryside, former blessings, have in many villages turned into a daily curse, as a brilliant network of roads now serve as a slave to extremely heavy traffic, moving goods around France, and serving Europe and the rest of the global market. Villages that used to profit and blossom from the life on the roads, have been reduced to obstacles in a hunt for efficiency in transport times. Long-haul trucks plow through the countryside and everything that comes in their way, stopping only to catch up on sleep for the driver and petrol for the engines. In their trail the trucks leave dying villages, closed shops, and empty houses. The dust is whirling up a strong stand from many local communities, to recreate the lost tranquility of the countryside, and re-route the heavy traffic, the villages once celebrated to have.

These images are shot in villages along the 570 km. long N12, stretching out west of Paris, to the harbor of Brest on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.


Images by Kasper Nybo Photography. We work in the no-man’s land between narrative observation and visual storytelling, capturing authenticity and creating no-nonsense visual communication. We believe in the power of originality and honest stories across our line of work in editorial, commercial, artistic and humanitarian photography. Get in touch and let us know how we can help you deliver stronger stories! For bookings or questions click above. If you want to read more about us, click right here.