de Leo Divendal

Livro - 22.5 x 26 cm

Tiragem limitada em 90 unidades.
Versões em inglês e português ou inglês e francês.
Cada exemplar é numerado e assinado 
pelo autor.

“Isabelle” by Leo Divendal
Book – 22.5 x 26 cm
Limited Edition of 90 units, all numbered and signed by the author
Available in English/Portuguese or English/French

“The book “Isabelle” by Leo Divental is divided in 3 chapters which correspond to the 3 photography sessions made within 12 years. The text written by the author describes this path in details, deeply and inspiring. 

Leo Divendal did a deep and delicate work in this exclusive publication launched in Brazil and in Holland simultaneously. 
The Edition is printed with mineral pigment and hand assembled. Only 180 units numbered and signed by the author.”
O livro Isabelle de Leo Divendal é dividido em três capítulos que correspondem às três sessões fotográficas realizadas ao longo de 12 anos. O texto escrito pelo autor descreve esta tragetória de forma detalhada, profunda e inspiradora.
Leo Divendal faz um ensaio profundo e delicado nesta publicacão exclusiva lançada no Brasil e na Holanda simultaneamente. 
Edição impressa artesanalmente em pigmento mineral e encadernado manualmente. São apenas 180 exemplares numerados e assinados pelo autor.
“The book “Isabelle” by Leo Divental is divided in 3 chapters which correspond to the 3 photography sessions made within 12 years. The text written by the author describes this path in details, deeply and inspiring. 
Leo Divendal did a deep and delicate work in this exclusive publication launched in Brazil and in Holland simultaneously. 
The Edition is printed with mineral pigment and hand assembled. Only 180 units numbered and signed by the author.”
One day in 1999 I receive a letter from a woman, unknown to me, in Paris. She introduces herself and explains that, after seeing some of my photos in a gallery, she would like me to photograph her. She explains that she has previously made the same request of a number of photographers whose work has seized her attention, and that she likes to be photographed in a free style, according to the preferences of the photographer. I decide to act upon her request and suggest we should first meet before deciding whether to proceed with the project.
Our encounter a few months later on a Friday afternoon in her house is quite normal and at the same time rather strange. I try to find a few moments in which I can just look at her, but this is difficult to achieve during a conversation. The atmosphere is relaxed, but I do wonder what I am doing here. We talk about who she is and she shows me some pictures from her collection, in each of which she features. I see her appearance, clothed or naked. Her expression in almost every photo is neutral. I have trouble getting an impression of her. She tells me that she works as a nurse in a hospital. And that she was only seventeen when she first had herself photographed in this way. We discuss which current exhibitions in Paris are worth visiting. Even though she remains almost a stranger, she intrigues me. I cannot reach her entirely, as if she won't quite open up to me, but perhaps this is not the issue - for whatever reason we must somehow need each other. I decide to take the work on and arrange a session with her for after the weekend, once again in her home.
On Monday morning around ten I ring her bell. She opens the door and lets me in. We exchange a few pleasantries. I tell her I'd like to take some portrait shots first, followed by some naked shots. She agrees with calm casualness. I first take some photos of her face, but no matter how I take the picture, they all appear to me to be the same, as if I am unable to truly explore her face. I pause for a moment to ask myself: where am I? In Paris there's a street, in the street there is a house, a strange house indeed, in that house there is a woman, an unknown woman who later undresses in order to have her picture taken, following my directions. It makes me think of the pose of a young woman by the impressionist painter Georges Seurat. The French photographer Jeanloup Sieff once made a portrait of a woman as a homage to Seurat. The reproduction of this photo, in postcard form, stood for years on my bookshelf. The woman I see before me assumes almost the same pose and almost has the same figure. She isn't entirely naked, as in Seurat's painting she wears panties resembling a shawl. I find the cloth, or rather wraparound-underpants, fascinating: it accentuates her femininity but is beyond all the styles of lingerie I am familiar with. She asks whether she should take it off but I decide to first photograph her as she is. I am reminded of reliefs in Egyptian pyramids showing equally scantily clad figures, often wearing just a single piece of material.
I enter into a flow of shots in which I look at her to find the image I seek, for which she becomes the instrument.
Her robust, lean body appears somewhat boyish too, which is also accentuated by her extraordinarily strong hands. I am touched by her beauty, as by a sculpture in a French or Italian museum.
At some point she asks again whether or not to continue undressing and I assent. She loosens the cloth on the side and steps out. I now see her as if a sculptor had chipped away the final piece of stone to reveal her nakedness in its entirety. At the same time she remains a mythical presence, as if I am not really there. Her presence exudes something erotic, but this is perhaps because I am really there. I see her naked body, her breasts, her shoulders, the hands and her lightly shaved vulva. She poses according to my instructions and my gentle suggestions lead to slight changes in her posture and impressions of movement, creating a scope in which to work with my images. 
I then ask her to sit. Now she has to decide what to do with her hands and legs, which interests me. Sitting like this, huddling in her new position, makes her presence endearing. As if the image contains more narrative. Then, almost suddenly, it's finished, and it feels like waking up from sleep. 
She dresses, we chat, I promise to show her the product of our session and I leave her house.
A few months later, when I'm in Paris again, I arrange to meet her at the terrace of a cafe on the corner of Rue Daguerre and Boulevard Porte d’Orléans, just past Cimétière Montparnasse. When in Paris I often stay in the 14th arrondissement. It's sort of my home in Paris. Amidst the hubbub of the street she looks intensely at the pictures I show her, the tranquil, almost empty images, all showing closed eyes, while Paris races past. She is enthusiastic and visibly moved.
Afterwards I give her an occasional update of my work or we may have a brief encounter at Paris Photo, the annual photography show in the Carrousel du Louvre.  
Five years later, July 2004, she sends me an email to tell me that she is pregnant with a daughter. She is now married and has moved to a bigger and lighter apartment. She is seven months pregnant. She would like me to photograph her before her baby is born.
One month later I travel to Paris, when she is eight months pregnant.
I find her in a state of 'absence'. Pregnant with her first child and in her condition she makes a somewhat introverted impression on me, much stronger than I remembered from our first encounter. We have a drink, she tells me her daughter's name will be Albane, a name I've never heard before, like that of a princess. I ask her to undress. She looks both different and the same, her pregnancy is obviously visible but she maintains that girlishness and boyishness that so impressed me the first time. The girlishness predominates as she lies on the sofa, as I ask her to do, her advanced pregnancy gives her a more defined form, more sensual. The boyishness is mainly evident later when she stands against a bare wall. I focus on the centre of her body as a peculiar universe of invisibility, the pronounced round form, I can think only of a globe, which she supports with her linked hands. 
After the session she phones her husband who works elsewhere in the building and when he arrives we eat a light lunch. We chat about art and photography, about recent books and exhibitions in Paris. I then leave the house.
On my return to the Netherlands I create a series from the photographs which I call En attendant Albane and I send this to her.
I add two quotations to the series. One is a fragment from Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier, about emergence. The other is from Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano, about vanishing, about this fragile life. Stories about the emergence or the loss of this fragile life.
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.
Leo Divendal
Translated from the Dutch by Simone Veenstra 
                                    Leo Divendal