Portraits of French Writers
Consumed by two passions, photography and literature, I was able to fuse the two together the day that I chanced upon a small bookshop in Lille. The staff there and the architectural environment literally floored me.
At the antipodes of conventional bookshops which generally sell just about anything to attain a large sales turnover, the feeling here was one of true respect for the written word, a real love of literature. Every display, every table covered in books seemed to reflect the personality of the booksellers.
Each week writers who came to discuss their latest novels gathered in this bookshop – a big moment every time. And whilst listening to these often rather fascinating writers I began to take photographs of them. I did this for two years.
I limited myself to photographing them from a distance, intervening as little as possible and consciously not wishing to create an image, but simply trying to capture the magic of the moment or the expression that seemed to reflect what I felt about the author or his work.
My refusal to create an image prompted me to narrow the frame in order not to make use of the surroundings. It was futile to make use of an extraneous background when the subjects were so captivating in themselves. Just a hand movement or a look was sufficient for me to obtain a good photo.
That bookstore is no more.
My photos are still there as a kind of tribute to those writers who often moved me deeply
Dominique Houyet, 23/05/2007