L'Appel Du Vide
(n.) lit. 'the call of the void'; the instinctive urge to jump from high places when encountering one.
I started this series of portraits primarily as an ode to our bodies that are real, not plastic. But then, as people opened up to me during long conversations, as we talked of our past and of our pains, as we shared our secrets and our hopes, our moments of jubilation and our failures, we ended up forming a bond based on empathy and vulnerability. And at this very juncture, this series of nudes was no longer just about our bodies, but about our souls, about our memories and our ghosts, our insecurities and our fears, which we struggle against every passing day while seeking liberation.
J’ai commencé cette série de portraits principalement comme une ode à nos corps en toute leur beauté réelle, pas plastique. Et puis, au fur et à mesure que les gens se sont ouverts envers moi pendant des longues conversations, en parlant de nos passés et de nos douleurs, en partageant nos secrets et nos espoirs, nos moments de joie et de nos échecs, nous avons fini par créer un lien basé sur l’empathie et la vulnérabilité. Et à ce moment même, cette série de portraits ne concernait plus seulement nos corps, mais autant nos âmes, nos souvenirs et nos fantômes, nos insécurités et nos peurs, contre lesquels nous luttons en cherchant à nous libérer avec chaque jour qui passe.
French translation: Paul Muse
Letters from my friends in the town of Niort in France, where this work was made
I'm going to tell you something Soham, really painfull for me. Last year I worked in a school with some lost children. I was, like you said, too vulnerable and one day i had a hard discomfort. Since this discomfort i'm always trying to avoid another. I fight everyday with the fear of this pain and the weakness i felt.
I'm just realizing why this discomfort: i think i wanted my family to be so proud of me that i neglect what i really wanted, and what makes me really happy. I always want people arround me to be happy. Because i can't be happy if they're not!
That's also why i wanted to know about you. This project wasn't just for me. It was for you too. I had to know why you've been travelling in a unknow country. Why you wanted to know so many details about me. In France, too many people are selfish. My sister for exemple, she lives for herself, if she want to see you it's for her. Not because you are not feeling good, or because you asked her. I feel like i were born in the wrong place. Like people arround me fight with me to make me like them.
And when you fall, when you are weak, they say it's your falt. You've been too naive, too immature. But you, when i answered you, you didn't juged me like them. You tried to understand me, not to categorizing me.
Thank you so much for that.
I was surprised that you wanted to know about me, that you take time to talk with me.
People don't see life like i see it. We are alive because we are sharing. The problem is that i give too much and don't receive enough.
I don't know if you had a nice visit in France. What you saw about french people. And i want to know, if you can tell me. But what i know is that you gave me love and comfort in just a photograph, in just an hour. Thank you for that.
Yesterday i told to my friend that i wasn't seeing myself in your photograph. Because since last year and my discomfort, what i see about me is what people tell me who they think i am. And this photograph is showing the tiny me, who came to this new city to be an "artist" to discover people, to be alive. But also the scared me who loves her family and can't totally leave them.
I think we are all born to meet people and to grow with them, to discover their world. Your one of my most beautiful unexpected meet. I love to meet optimistic people, who convey joy and hope.
Get home safely, Soham!
I hope you are well and satisfied with your stay in Niort.
I thought you might like to have some reactions from some of the people who have visited the exhibition: “violent, hard, makes me think of the Shoah (deportation and murder of Jews) and concentration camps”. Some visitors could not bring themselves to look at all the photos as they found them so disturbing. Others failed to recognise me (I had not spoken of the session to anyone; people wanted to understand my motivation. I made the point that it was absolutely not a question of courage). I have not had many other comments; furthermore, I have not sought any. I think that the title L’Appel du Vide is not only very apt but also quite striking.
I wanted to tell you as well that this was a very powerful experience for me emotionally speaking and I’m very grateful to you.
I hope you’re working on other plans; I’ll have a look at your website from time to time because I’m not on Facebook.
You're doing the best thing you can: getting through each day. Those days in Niort were so not alike all the things you've experienced that is impossible to match with what you feel and see on everyday basis. Consider that so much love is only possible because of you. Take this experience not as exception but a huge possibility for the days to come. Meanwhile, build your basis, take your pills and give baby steps. I understand you, you're not alone, I feel the same pain.
In this dark room, a circle of bodies - upright, naked, without affectation, looking far, very far into the distance - stands like a circle of shadows. Rather like naked bodies thrown into a public arena before astonished, scandalised spectators. But I also think immediately of my own body placed there as a mirror image in the centre of the arena.
What was behind this leap into the unknown? Was it the unknown inside all of us which persuaded them to jump? Was it the desire to shake off the masks, all the masks that project the image one wants to give of oneself and replace them with the image of perfection?
What strikes me the most is the similarity in each one of them: they share the same body, whether scrawny, sleek or plump and this makes me forget the individual; what I see is an enhanced group of bodies in a circle launched between heaven and earth.
The attention needed for the identification of the person inside the body is of no consequence. Rather, there are other images that impose themselves now - sacrifice, death - bodies doomed to the flames, to the frozen wastes but all destined for the ultimate expectation. And it is then that the violence of the contrasts reinforces this moment of finiteness and tolerates no falsehood.
Heaven, towards which they look, remains bleak and silent.
But they are also looking towards us. Could one say that this extreme solitude makes us look deep inside ourselves, to the beings that flee this giant holocaust to create a necessarily better posthumous humanity?
Thanks a lot for your invite ! I'm kind of shy to be there and at the same time naked ...I don't assume a lot ...! Sure I'll be with you with my heart and with my thoughts for you to receive what you wish as positive return and as gratitude for your exibition...and plus tonight friends invite me for a diner a long time ago... I'm very grateffull to you for sharing our "life" as we did. It was a deepfull time for me. How long you stay in Niort ? Thanks again and see you soon!
You are a wonderful person... So sensible... your face make me smile... You're so sweet...
Yes i'm very happy and very happy to know you
You be very happy in life...
And you can visite me when you want my little brother
My house will be always yours my little brother, my soul mate...
thanks for you for this precious moments
continue your works with your heart and give us news !!!
my bad english ..... pfffff ....
Soham have a good travel
your a precious man you know for me in my life (o my bad english)
my arms aroud you
my heart with your heart
see you with a lot of "plaisir"
and and and continue your wonderful works with your realy wonderfull pictures
How to begin? In a text, the first sentence is very important...
Many feelings are running in my head like free horses...
The first image I will always keep is your big and dark eyes deep as an abyss. You let me dive into your eyes upto your soul and I thank you for that. You had a gentle, a kind, an understanding look on me and I thank you for that too.
I disagree when you say, you see sadness everywhere. You see sadness but you turn it into beauty in a way, by showing and questioning it.
Thank you very much for being patient with me, for showering me with nice and positive words.
If I've sent you some photographs, it's because since I was a little girl, I've been filled with amazement very easily. Only with small things: it could be a bird eating , a dog running, a dew drop on the grass, a cloud, a flower...
I must be foolish but I think it's a strength.
Please promise me one thing: when you're back in India, think about it and admire sweet little things in the world, in the nature, in the city, around you! It helps a lot, believe me.
I know photographing helps you to accept, to bear and to live. For me, its singing, dancing, reading, listening to music. I used to write poetry before but I have no inspiration...I've got ideas for tales and stories for children but I can't find the end!
Do you know that only in a few days, you have filled in my life more than some other people in months! I already know that I will be sad when you leave Niort.
I would have had the time to invite you for a drink, for dinner at my flat, to have a walk in the streets of Niort, to practice relaxation together. Time flies...but maybe it had to be like this.
I don't know if I'll have the opportunity and the money to go to India one day...
If you comeback to France, I am sure I can come to visit you in Paris.
My dear nephew, we have to live with our ghosts, with our wounds, which will never be totally closed unless somebody caresses them.
I will send you letters and postcards from places where I will go in France, so you will travel a little with me. Let's keep our precious moments spent together in Niort safe in our hearts.
Sigh...I give you a big hug and my eyes look at you...a long time...