The gesticulation started a long time before I was born. Living was an obligation. The laughter and the tears, and all the game around these awkward people; they would take me in their arms, saying loudly how cute this kid is, and look at his face, how resembling it is. It is like an emotion seed, a time bomb bound to grow and grow, monstrously develop from this tiny struggling creature. And according to the logic of life, he will outlive all of them before he eventually dies. Nothing lasts forever except maybe a name carved in the stone. It might stand for our honour. Who knows? And what will he think of the gentle evening September wind in Paris, where I may catch you in a while, plunging a feverish hand into one of those green wooden boxes watched over by the second-hand booksellers on the banks of the Seine. You will probably be looking for that first novel I wrote when I was about twenty. I was already trying to change Time which boringly keeps slipping through our fingers.
I was nineteen. The story came as I was writing: two teenagers yearning for love, for identity — does that mean the same thing? — trapped in the social rites of middle-class triumphant absurdities. Speaking of my novels, I will find it easier to get the key that leads the frame and my cameras. I made it plural on purpose: the look — I don’t mean the inner look — is not a straight-as-a-die field, a non-reflecting mirror that you are holding in front of you. The eye knows no measure. It has a thousand possible inclinations; I will deal with my own inclinations later.
Why should I make you wait? My heroes are not that smart. I meet them in any city I walk through, like in a painter’s large studio, a set where everyone, very neatly dressed is ready to play his part and someone else’s fate. This is the law of style. But it is not relevant to draw a comparison with these domains where falsehood is reality. I made you waste time, and I am sorry for that. My streets, my characters, my twin-sisters in the Jardin du Luxembourg, my twin-brothers in Rue de Rivoli, the woman with the pipe, Caroline de Monaco, bald, the Clintons, Johnny Depp, Pascal Greggory and his three faces, the Emperor and Empress of Japan are real. Even the Queen of England is real.
Taking a picture means writing a face, a body in a definitive eternal way. Taking a picture means communicating one’s joys, pains, questions, force, singularity. Not yours, but the model’s. The less present, important the photographer is, the better he communicates. Horowitz said: ‘Why are they applauding me? I have not done anything! Everything is written here, I am not Mozart’.
I don’t make people strike a pose: the model surprises me again and again. He is the important one. I follow, I identify with my model. I like the way he walks, the way he thinks, all so singular.
Did I tell you that throughout all my novels from my first to the forthcoming one, I have been haunted by falsehood? A false family, a false society, false feelings causing real tragedies. Maybe because I wrote over and about emptiness did I find it necessary, during this trial, to lean on reality, on my lonely characters’ true appearance along the streets, on the true stories of my few model friends. I have been studying and living with them, like long novels, for so many years now through the different areas of the lives they have served me up. Admiration commands my camera. I feel admiration for the news shape an unexpected silhouette takes, a never-seen-before mountain, an endless question. Defied solitude, I take the print of your pain, humour and sometimes simple submission to the banality of your never banal fate. I am waiting for you, shapes. I am not watching out for you to come: you come like I was born, like words on a beach, like those patches of colour I happen to lay on paper to give birth to a character standing on a sun or maybe it is someone else’s head. I know less what I am painting than what I am taking a picture of. My painting is reduced to myself, so I am given complete freedom. Any development is thus possible. Any economy. In any ways. At any moment. Dream or obsession. A photograph is a fight against truth, against an emotion, a fraction-of-a-second fight. When I started writing that sentence, I was convinced I would write that a painting, a drawing, a painted photo is something completely different, but I paint in a very lively way, I can paint as quick as I can see. Life is a fleeting moment. The life that we bring like a long-hidden truth, like the birth of a love or the death of a dream.
The keys to what I am stem from my story, my likes and dislikes, my strength, my resolutions, but most of all, the snapshot is one and only one: the lightning. Just like I could not help being born, I can’t help writing, drawing, trying to show and share the great beauty of the beings I like for their truth, their mystery, also maybe for that complicity I would like to keep alive for ever.
This text was written by François-Marie Banier, on the occasion of the release of the exhibition catalog Private Heroes held in Stuttgart at the Württembergischer Kunstverein from 27 November 1998 to 17 January 1999