Vive la vie - François-Marie Banier
VIVE LA VIE Vive la Vie Vive la Vie We must repeat this every day. First for our own sake, and then for the sake of the people we meet. For the air that we breathe. For the sky. For the earth. For the flesh. For our beloved who protects us, who is there for us, or who is dead; for mortals, but we are not mortals for we have departed – supposedly forever – they guide our steps and our love. There is not just one reality, lamentable or not. No no no. There’s more to it than what we see laid out flat, precisely marked out, photographed, though photographs can reveal the hidden side of things. People are not things: they have countless facets. Not only in terms of what they look like or their size, but also in terms of how they resonate. When Picasso, Braque and Gris discovered Cubism after Cézanne (I’m straying off the track here – I was never much good at demonstrating things), the representation of the hidden face of the subject and what is within us and in the air endowed the image – when we piece together all the information whose traces paintings and photographs would scrupulously erase – with the emotion, subtlety and truth that made inroads against those leaden and deadly boring conventional academic representations. I don’t have much room left to get my essential message across. As usual I wanted to demonstrate something. It’s stupid really. In a nutshell: a face or a picture is never that simple. I can’t show what lies behind: I am no judge, and neither is Leica. Niépce and Daguerre’s invention did not say everything there was to say about photography. What is lacking for every thing and every individual is what I might call the ‘alternative perspective’: the perspective that is deadly either because of the boredom you experience at that moment, or because of a sense of joy that makes you want to add something else. Apart from our tears (for time has passed) and our laughter that is recorded nowhere, apart from lines, words and colour, what else can conjure up the movement of life in a fixed image? It is this life daubed by my delicate hand and the savage that used to make us laugh and cry. It was so much better before he (“he” refers to “me”) stuck in his words and all those drawings and paintings. It was Diane who set things in motion when she asked me to meet Natalia, the legendary beauty. At first I said no, I say no like the French do – I am half French half Hungarian: a brave, sensitive people. But Diane insisted and I met this exquisite young woman with a voice the colour of a river like the Seine whose banks we walked along one rainy day – she in a dress by Diane, the beautiful Diane, I wearing nothing in particular: no prejudice, no idea as to what the photograph would be like. We stood in the rain, and we liked each other. A poet would have penned a fine account of it all, even finer than this drawing, and in (she’s married) on Diane’s bed we started all over again in New York and on the zebra-patterned carpet in her office-cum-studio. The dresses changed, opened, closed again, turned, twirled. I envied Diane’s talent for enchanting us with colour, little tricks, the cut of a dress, fluidity, and above all her ability to bring comfort and joy. Back home I look at the pictures of Natalia, who has returned to her life while Diane is in New York making dresses, creating fashion. Alone in my Paris studio I look at the face and powerful personality of the model. I like fashion because it involves more than simply the pleasure of being beautiful. I often have this strange and penetrating dream about a woman I love, never the same woman, one who loves and understands me. I think that’s more or less how Verlaine’s poem goes. What is a work of art? A parallel, infinite and eternal life that each of us makes new by the way we look at it, our eyes adding to it like the lines I draw, like the mark or the drawing that emerges. No work of art is possible without transposition and the dimensions that only memory – in other words the heart – can provide. Ladies, do not throw away your dresses if only for the music the coat-hangers make as you the slide them along the rail, excitedly murmuring her name: Diane.

Vive la vie

by François-Marie Banier

This text was written by François-Marie Banier for his book Vive la vie published by Steidl in 2008.

Photo: Natalia Vodianova, by François-Marie Banier