It’s often been remarked that photography is easy — you just point the camera and click the shutter. But yes, just where do you point the camera and when do you press the shutter? Looking through the viewfinder of a camera like a Leica is wonderful because it makes this choice obvious — provided you have chosen the right focal length for your viewfinder, looking through the eyepiece you see a floating grey square with space around the edges, reminding you that over there, that is where the photograph is. Or it could be a little to the left. It is up to you.
So at Montsouris last autumn they re-installed a series of panels describing the history of the park and Parisian parks in general during the second Empire. There are interesting stories. The engineer responsible for the artificial lake in Montsouris committed suicide because on the day of the park’s opening a technical error mean that all the water had drained from the lake! And for the display, why have photographs? We are after all standing in Montsouris itself. They simply put a square frame neatly enclosing the landscape. This is where the photograph is.
The 31st of October: a minor (expected) outpatient operation and I’m confined to the house once again. In the days that follow I don’t go further than a few hundred metres from here. Of course there is a long photographic tradition of such confinements. Kertesz photographed constantly from his window. And poor Josef Sudek spent decades photographing his house and garden.
From our front window here? Avenue Rene Coty, and in these days, fading winter light. On the street, below our window, there is a bench where all kinds of Beckettian shows can take place. But on this particular week, I’d perhaps already had enough of waiting. Slanting shadows were enough for me.
Another trip to Montsouris. I never tire of the fact how ordinary objects can appear mysterious when photographed. Remember that Gary Winogrand quote: “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Photography is not a faithful reproduction of the world, and black-and-white film photography even less so. And if on top of that you’re not using lenses, film and developer known for outstanding truth-telling, well, you can end up with wonderful situations like this.
In real life these are just some unexceptional worn-out trees at one end of Montsouris. Actually I tried to print this image in the lab on very large paper, in the cupboard there is a box of Kodak film paper that dates from I don’t know when. I cranked up the enlarger to the highest setting and then some, exposed the paper, discovered of course the paper was much too big for the development bath, poured the dev bath into a big bath I had found under the sink (which hadn’t be used for years either and was full of small dead insects), realised of course I’d need some stop and fixer too, poured back the dev, poured in and out the stop and fixer, somehow managed to dry the print. Now, after a few weeks, not surprisingly, the print has turned grey, but I can’t bring myself to throw it away…
52 photographs (2018) #42: Leaving the swimming pool, early morning
If I’m feeling energetic I will try to go for an early-morning swim before work. I always have my camera with me. Most times, there are few people around. But sometimes, sometimes, you see something, and you can’t always explain what is happening.