I’m a bit nervous tonight. I’ve been drinking wine when I should be eating something. I’d imagined this venture as less perilous. Never in my life have I encountered such a multitude of anonymous gazes in so short a period of time, and I know nothing about them and never will.
Motionless, opaque, seeming at times to look at me but never looking at me — women gone for good. Vain surfaces, the only remaining trace of millions of adventures, experienced so long ago. Photographic portraits that found their way here, to this place, to these stones, one day of tears, grieving and disarray. So much accumulated pain . . . I can feel the weight of it.
And at the same time, the war that’s raging, over there. I’ve given up listening to the news. I keep on walking and walking, tirelessly pacing the alleys of cemeteries, hundreds of them. Enough to lose your head. It is a dreadful, fascinating ordeal, and so terribly pathetic. For the first time, I have no contact with anybody. A deep dive down into the land of scattered memories. Myriads of faces that fade, flee, and vanish. The ossuary of town S. counts more than six hundred thousand of them. An unreal crowd of unknown persons about whom all that can be said is that they once lived and that now they are dead.
The landscapes in my series ”Poppies for Caroline” were deserted yet they were more alive than this. The violent or caressing movement of water and foliage evoked a ripple, a head of hair, a breath or a fire. At night, I’d go home, back to our place, to the woman I loved. Sometimes she even came with me. My playmate. There is none of this anymore. Now I hound the void, wild-eyed in the emptiness of an immense solitude, mine and that of each of these people. Coiled up in the midst of a neverending stream of faces as in a deliriously spinning spiral, the drunken pivot of a fast-motion magic lantern representing a long, macabre procession of all the joys and sorrows that have befallen humanity.
In order to photograph them, to ”capture“ them, sometimes I have to kneel down beside them, in front of the grave. And I guess that’s the way it should be. No doubt it is the only suitable position. For most of the women who arrest my gaze, my heart aches. I’m overwhelmed by all the unsuspected wealth that only such extreme closeness can reveal. Nearly invisible to the naked eye, it is this abundance of detail, observed in the awesome intimacy of macrophotography, that confers such tragic splendor upon these silent, impenetrable faces. So many masterpieces still asleep, awaiting their Prince Charming, and he won’t be coming. So many enigmatic beauties.
In the evening when I leave the cemetery and find myself back on the street, when I see a real woman’s face passing by, when I look at her and when I notice that she’s brushing her hand through her hair, I stand there dumbstricken, finding it hard to believe in the reality of such a simple gesture. Having grown so accustomed all day long to contemplating only impassive, mute faces, even the slightest movement of a real woman’s body appears nearly miraculous to me.
The idea of one day seeing your eyes and feeling the familiar warmth of your laughter makes my head swim. All these moments dissipating in distance and absence . . . Working, working without cease for beauty’s sake. Time will deny our passions but your gaze will never pass away.