an important photograph

By | photography

In the 1970’s I made several trips to the south of France where I met a friend of mine who studied there. I also stayed there with French gypsies who I  had met. They were Sinti from Marseille, mostly musicians, amongst whom Joseph Reinhardt, the brother of the famous Django, was the best known. I also met some lesser known people like Kiri, a man of small posture, and his family. After I had returned from this trip, my friend from Marseille wrote me that Kiri had contacted him and he told the sad story: a tragic accident had happened when he had run over his little boy of some eight years old in backing up the car at the very moment the kid was behind him, where he could not see him. When his youngest son died, the father was in shock and the whole encampment panicked. After the funeral the father realized they did not even have one single photograph of the kid, unless the photographer who had visited them would have one. So the question was passed on for me to look at my photographs, and search for a glimpse of the little boy that was so tragically killed.

Amongst the many photographs of that period I found only one, that had the gypsy boy on the very right edge of the picture, running as he always was. I made an enlargement; it was a bit blurred, but I had no choice and the kid was recognizable. Later I heard that the father was happy but very emotional when my friend gave him the photograph that I had sent. He barely looked at it because he said “it hurt too much”, folded it twice and put it in his wallet “for later”. I have never met Kiri or his family since, but this has made me realize that there’s more than one meaning to the phrase I so often use: “an important photograph”. Photographs are part of our personal and collective memory.

tourist remover

By | street photography

Only a few days ago I was walking in the icy drizzle of late winter in the beautiful medieval center of the French town of Dinan, Bretagne, paying attention not to slip on its equally picturesque cobblestoned streets. It reminded me of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book “Les Européens”. There were few people on the streets and only a few families, looking a bit lost while visiting the fairground along the river bank.
I had just bought a postcard of Cartier-Bresson’s man jumping over a puddle, which was almost the only one of interest in the whole Super U shopping mall, apart from some Doisneau cards.
But in this cold and wet town I missed the people to bring it to life. I was holding my Contax in my pocket, but didn’t take anything.
A thought struck me: the Tourist Remover! I had only just recently learned about this program with its ominous name which can remove anything that moves from your digital snaps. You just take a series with some intervals and the program “sees” what moves, removing it and filling the gap with what it perceives as permanent. If only those digitally removed tourists remained floating somewhere in cyberspace…. How happily would I use them to fill my empty streets! A program called “Tourist Adder” for the street photographer? But I’m not a digital photographer. On second thoughts, no thanks, I’ll manage, I’ll deal with reality.