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Silverprint Hotel
La galerie nomade
"Envols de petits riens"

My friend Isabelle Olivier, one of the very few harpists on the jazz music scene, is the creator of “Envols de petits riens”, a performance piece featuring the dancers Bruno Genty and Sylvain Espagnol. After a rehearsal in the magnificent Morsang sur Orge chateau, she left me to take solo shots of Bruno while she drove Sylvain to the train station.
Bruno began by posing in front of the harp, and then surprised me by actually climbing onto the instrument itself. He did so with such incredible elegance, ease, and lightness, that I continued to photograph him in the same everyday, casual manner in which he posed. I returned home to develop the photos in the laundry room I was using as a darkroom at the time, and developed the proof sheet along with a few initial prints. Later that evening, when I showed them off to my husband, who has worked with Isa for years, he stared at me, dumbfounded:

“For God’s sake, what on Earth got into you?” he shouted. “Isa will kill you when she sees what you did with her harp! Whatever you do, do not show her these photos!” But it was too late… I had already sent her the proof prints in the mail…

"Mirror, mirror"

The black & white photo of my cat Minou sitting on my desk is a very important piece to me. On the right-hand side of the photo there is an old fan, the background is a mirror, and I myself appear at the bottom left, hidden behind my camera. This photo marks a turning point in my life as a photographer: it won first place in the FNAC self-portrait contest and the prize was a Nikon 300D camera with telephoto lens and external flash. From this moment on, I left traditional film photography behind and went digital. The majority of the photos in the “Wallpapers” series were taken with this camera.


The self-portrait also holds something very personal. When I married French jazz musician Louis Moutin in 2000, I took his name without thinking twice about it. A short time afterwards, I found an abandoned cat in the street, filthy and underfed. I adopted the kitten (or rather he adopted me) and suddenly regretted giving up my maiden name. In that moment, my former last name made perfect sense to me: for 40 years I had been Ursula Katzenmeier, German for “master of cats”. Last summer, I decided to change to a double surname, and I like to think that this would have made my father a very happy man…

"Alic@nte"

They met on Facebook. She was 56, he had turned 57 a couple of months earlier. They were both married: she for 28 years and he for 32. They knew that the best years of their respective marriages were far behind them. In the space once occupied by tenderness, the void was filled by silly arguments, never-ending quarrels over nothing.


At the beginning of their virtual relationship, they paid each other harmless little compliments, things that other users could also read. When the correspondence became more intimate, they moved to private messages, which helped them avoid the indiscreet attention of others. They then sent photos of themselves. He found her irresistibly beautiful. She thought he was nice looking, not much more, but his style of writing pleased her so. Although she found him a little insistent at first, she always answered his messages. There was something innocent, fragile about his manner, and she felt she would do anything not to hurt him. And anyway, what could possibly happen to her? They wouldn’t even have recognized each other if they had passed in the street. And then one day, he sent her Jacques Prévert’s poem “Alicante”. She wasn’t expecting this and the words of the poem touched her with an intensity she had never experienced before. She went to her closet and took out the sexiest lingerie she could find, lacy underwear that she hadn’t touched in years. She ran to the store at the end of the street and bought the most succulent orange she could get her hands on. She came home and arranged everything carefully, took her photo, and sent it to him. To be continued…

"Lucky people"

My husband and his twin brother formed a new band in the Spring of 2013. The band name was Moutin Factory Quintet and they were on the lookout for the cover art for their first CD. When they decided that the album would be called “Lucky People”, I knew exactly which photo to suggest. It was the photograph of my daughter in her husband’s arms, the two of them madly in love. I had taken this shot of Anne and Carlos last summer, under a hot sun on the roof of their Brooklyn apartment. In the background you can see the Manhattan skyline, and I can still hear the sound of the M line subway train as it passed by, forcing us to raise our voices at regular intervals.


I was devastated that my photo was not chosen for the album, vetoed by my brother-in-law. To this day I cannot understand his reasoning behind the decision.

This summer I started to write a novel so that I could use my photo on its cover: the kind of place that it clearly deserves…


"Me, myself & I, a Chinese portrait"

Do you know the game “Chinese portrait”? Someone starts off with a sentence like this: “If I were an animal, I’d be…” and each person finishes the phrase off by adding the animal of their choice: a lion, a gazelle, a dolphin, a dachshund (really?). The game can be played alone, with a partner or a group of friends, and encourages people to express their preferences and desires in order that others might understand them better. The imagination is free to go wherever it pleases.

I have created a Chinese portrait in the form of a photo, to help you understand many of the things that are important and meaningful to me. Given that there is such limited space within the photo for all of the questions that are being answered, I have prepared a written description that details things further. If I were an animal, I would be a cat (what else?), a sport: handball, a flower: a violet, an insect: a butterfly, a book: “Silk” by Alessandro Barrico, a scent: Chanel No5, a dance: the Tango, a drink: Champagne, a game: Chess, a color: Turquoise, a film: 9 and a Half Weeks (retro!), an object: I still can’t decide between a camera and a type-writer. And if I were a song, I would be… are you sure you really want to know?

"Les fleurs du mal"

Frank McDouglas was fifty years old. He lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with Maria, his first and only love. Thirty-two years ago he had married Maria because she was expecting his child. Sarah, their only child, unplanned but adored, had moved out of the house three years ago. Frank was a math teacher in a Staten Island high school. The high school hadn’t changed since it first opened 27 years ago, the same time that Frank started working there. When he wasn’t teaching, grading papers, or taking part in one of the never-ending meetings that decided the fate of the school’s 156 students, Frank gave private classes in his kitchen at home, supplementing his modest teacher’s salary. As for Maria, she was a nurse at the Wykoff Heights Medical Center.

Frank was a model, loyal husband to Maria during their more or less peaceful 32 years of marriage. Then at the end of one of his private lessons, his student, an attractive young girl who was mature for her age, put her arms around him and kissed him. He did nothing to resist her. Feeling her small breasts through her sweater and her soft breath on his shoulder, Frank let his student’s pretty hands do whatever they pleased, succumbing to her charm and determination. He regretted his weakness the second the door of the two-bedroom apartment closed behind her.

In 32 years of marriage, there were two things that Frank had never done: he had never bought Maria flowers and he had never cheated on her. The next morning, before taking the subway out to Staten Island as usual, Frank bought every flower for sale at a flower stand on the corner of Jefferson Street and Myrtle Avenue. He gave the flower seller the address of their apartment, where Maria was resting after an exhausting night shift at the hospital. He asked him to deliver the flowers to this address.

Maria never forgot the day that Frank bought her hundreds of flowers in every color under the sun. And she never found out that the day before, on the same kitchen table on which she placed her coffee cup to answer the door to the flower seller, Frank had betrayed her…

"Lost"

In the summer of 2005, I was looking for a studio to film a Moutin Reunion Quartet music video. I found one online, located in the 20th arrondisement of Paris, and I decided to head over there to see if it was what we were looking for. My daughter Eva, 11 at the time, was on school vacation and so she came along with me. As usual, we drove to Joinville and took the RER A line to Nation. From there we had to take the metro line 2. Because Nation is the last stop for some of the trains on this line, the train doesn’t fully go through it. Rather it sits on the track for a few moments before heading back towards Porte Dauphine.

We both got into the train car where we had been waiting, and I decided to step off to have a quick look at the map of the area. I wasn’t concerned because they had recently installed electric screens that showed that the train wouldn’t be leaving for another four minutes. Eva stayed on the train by herself and as I was looking the map, I suddenly heard the beep announcing the train’s imminent departure! Was that four minutes or four seconds? Thanks to my quick reflexes, I jumped back into the carriage just as the doors closed behind me and the train set off.

I still see this scene today from the point of view of a mother left standing on the platform, watching her child disappear through the metro. Eva didn’t have a cell phone at the time and we had never discussed how we would deal with a situation like this. The obvious thing would have been for me to take the next train and to meet up with Eva at the Avron station, where she would have gotten off to wait for me. But what if Eva hadn’t stopped there? Or what if she had decided to take the train in the opposite direction, to get back to Nation? She was so young and so pretty…

I finally figured out how I had misread the sign. It was showing two separate departures: the next train and the one after that!

I was traumatized. Eva knew this and for this reason, she and her sister Anne decided not to tell me about what happened to them in April 2012 in New York. Anne was living in a tiny room of a shared apartment in Brooklyn, seven blocks from Ditmas Avenue. The two of them had conspired together and convinced me to let Eva fly on her own to spend a week with Anne in New York. Eva had only just turned 17 and unlike Anne, her English wasn’t particularly good. From the very beginning the trip was chaotic. The flight was delayed, she missed her connection in Heathrow, and Anne spent three long hours waiting for her at JFK airport. I couldn’t relax until I knew that they were finally together.

My two girls had a lot of fun in the days that followed, sightseeing and shopping in the city. It was Eva’s first ever trip to New York and there were so many things for her to see. Anne took her sister everywhere, even managing to get her into nightclubs despite the fact that she wasn't yet 21. Obviously, these evenings involved beer, wine, and the occasional cocktail! After one of these nights of partying, Anne and Eva took the F line back to Brooklyn. Despite the late hour, every car was packed and the girls ended up seated far away from each other. They were both tired and a little tipsy, and quickly fell asleep. At Atlantic Avenue, Anne woke up suddenly. Thinking that she was at the Cortelyou Road station, she grabbed her bag, jumped up, and got off the train, the doors closing behind her. She quickly realized her mistake, understood that she had gotten off too early and was no longer with Eva. She watched helplessly as the subway started up and disappeared through the tunnel with her sister asleep inside. Eva woke up at the next station, obviously surprised that Anne was nowhere to be seen. A passenger, who had witnessed that whole thing, tried to explain what had happened. Eva vaguely remembered the name Cortelyou Road and knew that it was this station that was closest to Anne’s place. She decided to continue on and wait there for her sister, which turned out to be the best decision she could have made! In the meantime, Anne had jumped in a taxi and, 30 minutes later, the two sisters were reunited, crying with joy at finding each other again.

Since then I have tried to convince myself that Eva must have some kind of guardian angel, one that looks out for her to ensure that nothing bad happens to her in the dreaded underground corridors of those subway labyrinths.