Another four years pass and Isabelle sends me an email with a request to photograph her once again, this time with her recently born second child, a boy called Maxence.
I enter the house once again and find her with husband and baby. Her daughter Albane who I was not yet able to behold four years previously is nowhere to be seen. She tells me later that she is at the childcare centre.
I plan to do whatever it takes to avoid ‘loving mother with child’-photos. Not that she requests this, but it is something that would happen before you know it.
She asks what I want her to do and again I ask her to undress herself, and also her child. I ask her to lie together with her son on the sofa, which I move to a place with attractive daylight. She softly arranges the child on her body like a mother mammal would her baby. Physical and earthy, as can be observed in nature. I try to focus on this animal element. But then the boy spontaneously urinates all over her and the mother interrupts the session in order to wash herself and the baby and to change the cloth on the sofa. To maintain my concentration I take some still life shots in the room and in the kitchen, concerned about losing the required tension. The small immobile objects, such as a cookie on a breadboard, seem to me to belong to the same order, of a small intimate world, of safety and protection.
I am later able to continue photographing them, the plasticity, the proximity mostly, but it doesn’t last long. The baby becomes unsettled and demands all his mother’s attention. I decide that I have enough material and end the session. She puts the baby in its bed; I walk into the kitchen and look out towards the rehearsal rooms of the Paris Opera. A group of people sit in front of the door, perhaps actors or technicians. I go back into the room and browse through some photo books until she returns. We have a drink and shortly after I find myself at the zinc of a Parisian cafe wondering, just like the other times, whether it really happened. It’s such a different world, with her I feel like a drowning man who is only just able to hold on to a life buoy: my own view of a living sculpture in an ever changing appearance.
I don’t know if this will be continued one day, whether I’ll receive, perhaps in four years time, an email with the now familiar request to photograph a new phase of her life. That is, if I would be prepared to do so again. It would become a subsequent chapter about a woman in Paris, transformed by my gaze into a story about an encounter with the invisible.
(translated from the Dutch by Simone Veenstra)