Philippe De Jonckheere, from the series My color tv in black and white, Type C print, 11X14 inches, Chicago, 1989


... ( ... ) ... Another friday evening spent burning the midnight oil on Barbara's pages.

on a Wednesday afternoon session, one that was not quite like the others, Barbara looked rather impatient and it seemed that no picture that I would show her would hold any grace in her eyes, of course this was paining me a great deal, but worse than that it was irritating Barbara immensely. She would make angry gestures towards a few pictures ( I could not see what was wrong with them ) and she finally cursed : "it's all pretty stuff" ( meaning, this was bad, that it was correctly exposed and properly cropped). So she told me to check out a 4X5' camera from the Photo departement, borrow it for the week-end and I was to take pictures — a full box of films she insisted — without looking on the ground glass, holding the camera rather than setting it on a tripod. I did not have the time to pretend I did not understand — which was my usual trick as a foreigner in order to buy time when Barbara was thinking too fast for me — she told me, you heard! And as I was about to argue that I was not ready to burn an entire box of 4X5' sheet films, she promptly answered that if 4X5' was not good enough for me I could do it with 8X10', all of a sudden, Barbara was wearing the black jersey of a rugby referee who sets you back another 11 yards for arguing his previous judgement. So I shut up ( noone has ever won an argument with a rugby referee ) and walk back my 11 yards: that petite woman was no one to argue with even if you had the build of a former rugby player. She had decided that she was going to break my habits in framing, and she was making a point of it: more over she didn't want me to take pictures anymore while, keeping in mind that it was a costly business and also that shooting sheet film did not mean that one had to settle the camera on the tripod and curb and bend the rest of the world to enter the frame, in the same way that the painter David would do with Bonaparte as an emperor. Of course it worked, I don't say that the 8X10' films that were produced that week were out of this world, far from it, but at least, things had started to happen on the edges of my pictures which were finally giving Barbara something to chew on, and directions that she could point to for me to follow in order to learn what I was able to do and what I was made of. From this on, financial pressure disapperared, in a way the price that needed to be paid for a box of 8X10' sheet film was a little (a lot!) like the set fee at the psychanalyst's. I was rather taken aback, some ten years later, as I was doing the interpret for Barbara at an exhibition opening of her work, in Paris that she would state that shooting sheet film "blindly" was her way to adress new territories for herself, so later in the evening, I asked her about it, she said: "what is good for the student is also good for the teacher".

Next lesson.