MaintenanceI would not have arrived there if… Each week, “Le Monde” questions a personality on a decisive moment in his life. The photographer evokes her beginnings in the misogynistic world of war reporters, her unconditional love for Africa, the price she attaches to friendship.
The trials were not lacking in her wandering existence, but Marie-Laure de Decker, smoker’s voice, piercing eye, never lost her humor. Vietnam War, rebels in Chad, endangered tribes, it touched everything, in depth. Retired in her house in Tarn, she admits, at 74, not having succeeded ” nowhere “ in his conflict with the Gamma agency which claims to have lost his photos.
I wouldn’t have made it here if …
If the enchanters, three brothers named Merlin, had not been in my way. I was 20 years old, I was a model and the two cadets had to take pictures of me. The eldest, Dominique, had directed, in 1967, with Pierre Schoendoerffer a very beautiful film on Vietnam in black and white, The Anderson Section. I knew right away that was what I wanted to do. From that day forward, I never thought of anything else. These boys had a laboratory in their parents’ garage in Paris. They developed their films and photos themselves, which I also learned to do.
It was difficult to sell these photos to newspapers. At “L’Express”, a guy said to me: “Come back when they’re dead.” I was horrified
Only, where to start? I told myself that I was going to photograph the old gentlemen that I admired and that everyone forgot. I had made a list. The time worshiped Andy Warhol and pop art, but the surrealists, the Dadaists, were no longer in fashion. I knew that Man Ray went to lunch every day on rue des Canettes in Paris with his wife, Juliet, at the restaurant Les Volcans. They were still sitting at the back, him with his beret on his head and his glasses. I asked him if I could take pictures, he said yes right away. I went to their house, rue Férou, near the Odeon, we talked a lot and I photographed him.
I had also read in a book of interviews with Marcel Duchamp that he went every summer to Cadaqués, in Spain, and that he played chess in the village café. I showed up there with my Leica, and it was true. He was smoking the cigar. I was very shy but I conquered my fear, it was very important. I made a film and thirty-six photos. There is one that I still love. I also photographed Hans Bellmer, Philippe Soupault, César in his studio. Fernando Arrabal had come to see him, but at the time I did not know him! It was difficult to sell these photos to newspapers. TO L’Express, a guy told me: “Come back when they’re dead. ” I was horrified.
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