Wednesday and Thursday’s notes

By Beverly Spicer September 7th, 2007

With jet lag at bay and most of our technological solutions solved or at least comprehended, we started another day. The wireless connection in the PAMS is fickle beyond belief. It works like a hotline to the satellite one minute, and then the next we wait another 3, 5 or 30 minutes for a page to load. Sometimes, we just have to abandon the effort altogether and try again later. This makes for time constraints that are completely out of control, but it also is a perfect metaphor for the French culture, which is full of fits and starts. I’m thinking this is what creates the marvelous emotional quality to everything here. One minute CE MARCHE BIEN, the next minute, VERBOTEN. The result? — My theory for the time being is we are freed from certainty and/or a linear quality to time and circumstances. I’m finding the key solution to everything is to just relax and go with the flow.

I spent a good deal of time plugged in but verboten at the mother ship, our energy matrix, the juicy pig who provides our lifeforce on our computers. Batteries don’t last long enough to wait things out, and the hot spots work right where the outlet is. While waiting for the next “GO,” I met several fascinating photogaphers who, like everyone here, enjoy sitting around and chatting. Ahmet Polat and Sol Neelman, who had just met and instantly bonded, decided to sit down with me for a chat as I waited for the internet to start working again.
Ahmet lives in Turkey and Sol in Portland, yet you would have thought they were brothers. We began immediately talking about how festivals like this have a magical quality to them that dissolves differences between people from all over the world. Things happen that one could never fashion by design, but instead just what “should,” does happen. It’s something about letting go of deadlines and rules, and then somehow one runs into exactly the person you needed to talk to or wanted to see, or you wind up at exactly the right place at the right time. Most photographers seem to have this natural ability, maybe more it is a basic instinct, but what was interesting about our conversation was how these two articulated the phenomenon. Ahmet, on the right, after only a few sentences, looked at me with his wide, dark, soulful eyes and said, “Well, then, we don’t need to talk very much, do we?” I realized how true that is and shot back, “RIGHT!”

People have a way of appearing and disappearing just as quickly, and suddenly we couldn’t find Dirck. Joan Gramatte and I were at headquarters at Hotel PAMS looking for him when we encountered an exuberant Jean-Francois Leroy, the director of the festival, as he returned from the lunch he hosted at Mas Chabry. He had obviously enjoyed the lunch as much as Dirck, and suggested that the Digital Journalist himself might be somewhere grabbing a little siesta after the feast.
Later in the afternoon I ran into Ahmed and Sol again as they appeared at the entrance to a gathering hosted by National Geographic at the Eglise. They found themselves on the outside looking in, and we joked with our heads to the bars about being in prison, or, out of prison. I immediately thought of the wonderful film, The King of Hearts. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the trouble.
Every year National Geographic hosts a party at the beautiful Bistrot de Saint Jean in a courtyard next to the cathedral on Rue Cite Bartissol.
Sequestered inside were photographers, editors, publishers, reps of every variety. The last time we saw David Douglas Duncan was in Austin, Texas, where he presented a story about his lost dog and along with his controversial book from a roll of candid shots of the elusive Henri Cartier Bresson one afternoon when they were together. But now, he appeared at the National Geographic event with his beautiful wife, and they were the toast of the party. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, and they kindly tolerated much to-do and snapping of photos from every angle by those so inclined. Even at an event such as this, one thinks about the nature in privacy, invasion of privacy, and just plain wearing someone out. They were extremely gracious.
Dennis Stock of Magnum sat to the side near the entrance and received a steady stream of photographers and others involved in the industry. We had a lot of fun hearing the happy story of how Stock and his wife, author Susan Richards met and got together, proving it’s never too late.
Before the evening presentations we once again roved the streets looking for sustenance, and ran into Horst Faas, who seems to manage the streets of Perpignan in his wheelchair as well as the rest of us do on our feet. It warmed our hearts to realize the amount of stamina, determination, and perseverance Horst possesses, an example for us all.
Just around the corner we found our restaurant, settled in for what we now see as a brief repast of an hour and a half for yet another wonderful meal.
We watched the evening’s presentations from the overflow area set up in a courtyard near the Eglise Saint Jean. Music, images, the profundity of the work returned us to a somber mood as we contemplated the difference between lolling around in the Catelonian area of France while so much suffering is occurring around the world.

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