Après la Pluie
Actes Sud Editions / October 1997 / 11.1 x 8,7 inches / 112 pages – 61 Black and White photographs / Monograph
Introduction essay by Jean Rouaud, Prix Goncourt 1990 for “The Fields of Glory”
Face to face, they stare into one another’s eyes and yet instinctively we know they’re not on the same side. In fact, as though to make the separation, the breach let’s say, a physical reality, between them there’s one of the those metal barriers used everywhere to segregate important people like politicians, the Pope, racing cyclists from regular onlookers who are not really interested in what goes on behind the barrier, but a parade, demonstration, the next leg of a race, give them the opportunity to get a close look at what, for example, the state security police look like, and a chance maybe to spot someone they know behind a visor, Hey Louis! what are you doing here? But it is clear that on each side of the barrier different interests are being defended. The side with the armed men, the side of the truncheon, quite obviously had the whip hand, holds the power. The other side? For some time now we’ve grown used to confrontations like this one, to encountering hooded or masked figures, the scarf like a gag covering the lower part of the face below the eyes, there where they evidently have nothing to hide. After all, they want to be noticed. For it to be known that they exist.
And yet there it is, casually leaning against a metal post, ignoring the plane as it takes off, or above the track hunched into the steaming welding, or still rolling his own cigarettes like Artaud, or, still with a cigarette in his mouth, strolling along the railway line – the consumption of tobacco didn’t go down during the strike. And there it is again, emotions intact, chemically pure, burying one of its exterminators, a president of the Republic. We haven’t made a mistake, the grief-stricken woman doesn’t go to a hairdresser in one of the better class neighborhoods. In December ninety-five we should have looked more closely instead of feigning amazement when we discovered this country still had railwaymen and tramwaymen, and that, in their bomber-jackets, caps and scarves knotted around their necks, they in no way resembled those who did look the part, who had a full-time job, the symbol of power.
And what about me, you don’t remember me, says the man leaning on the barrier. D’you want to take a photo of me? While behind him, his friend, with a display of utter contempt for the nevertheless forces of order, raises, with an aristocratic gesture, a cigarette to his lips. The audacity of it, the conceit, the vanity, his whole demeanor in fact, we didn’t know it still existed. After all it was light years ago, it disappeared before the wall came down, vanished with the last illusions of egalitarianism, what was it called again? Ah yes, the working class. And yet they’d sworn it had been transformed, that with its shirt and tie and briefcase it had joined the ranks of middle management.
They, the poor, with their ties, their sad suits, are really not much to look at. Threepenny buffoons on the rostrum, with the falseness of their thrusting chins. Not to mention the fact that it’s patently obvious they’re bored, not for a moment do they believe a word they say. Wouldn’t they bore us? Wouldn’t we not believe them? And apparently there’s a working class youth too. Yes, really, you see them queuing like onions on a string at the registry office, under the name of one of their patrons saints. We have nothing against them but they’re really not what we expected. The youth we envy so, well as it happens you can still find them on there on the streets, ready to fight some noble cause or other, or on a street corner to invent a new dance. Power is out of luck. The only one capable of saving power stands on a chair throughout meetings – serious, sincere, loving – but power, who out of gratitude should offer her the job of queen, doesn’t notice. What Jean-François Campos has to offer will last longer that any seven-year mandate.
Post face by Jean-François Campos
The possibilities are often endless. To cut into, to slice up reality, to organize. To act like a journalist, to write poetry. To be serious, to take yourself seriously, to be witty, to be mocking. Telling the news is definitely a hazardous exercise. I’ve had to do it for seven years, from 1990 to 1997, for the newspaper Libération, and It didn’t take me long to realize that I was somehow, a “pretty bad journalist”. At work, my mind was often on other things. Like in my daily life. I was sitting right in the middle of a river, all around me the news was flowing past. I've always loathed photographic demonstrations, or statements: I make too many of them without a camera to keep making them with one – a personality trait, like taking myself seriously. In the middle of this river, I built up my secret garden. A private space, gradually exposed as my contact sheets drift by. Funny images – that I don’t find so funny - doubts, people, obsessions. I could have chosen to compile a “real book” of photographs, to give an ordered account of these five years, to write proper captions, to be “honest”… But I like this “dishonesty” that involves being sincere, not having to situate, to explain, to demonstrate, to state. I prefer the disorder of everyday life to the established order of tomorrow’s media. The news, I saw it, but I was never really there. From the politics of Chirac the candidate to the one next door, strikes, workers, I know that all of that existed, but I don’t remember well… I was, in the end, in a intimate space, space that I share here the memory of, more personal than real: for I was here, and elsewhere. Jean-Francois Campos Paris, July 25, 1997