Chemins Invisibles/Balancing Acts – Jean Mazelier 1963-2015

In Artists, Circus, photography, Sundays on August 9, 2015 at 6:07 am

A matter of days, or maybe hours, the hospital staff said, based on his vital signs but mostly on his behavior. As far as vital signs go, there’s only the unanswerable question of how long his energy will hold out. I signed myself off the list of people who want to say a last goodbye; there are too many already.

After his first unsuccessful chemo, Jean asked me to photograph him on three different occasions. Given the quality of his work as a professional photographer and his dedication to that profession, I know what prompted the request wasn’t any admiration he might have for the dedicated but amateurish love I take in using a camera. If anything, my status as an amateur had something to do with the asking. I think he wanted to see what the illness was doing to him, as others saw it in his appearance. In all three instances, he looks like a man who’s just had a chemo.

I wouldn’t have photographed him unless asked on the two recent times we spent together. Nor does he wish people to look long and hard at him right now.

Most present in my mind this morning: the times we spent together driving to and from a project with a group of teenagers in a remedial program. Jean obsessed over every detail of those sessions where he took half the group out on a photographic expedition while I worked with the other half, making up stories based on the photos done at the previous session. He also obsessed over the how, the what, the when of his upcoming treatment. Mostly, I listened. Every so often, I’d interrupt and draw his attention to the magnificent light on the hills.

Irony – often veering to causticity. A restless mind. A fierce need for privacy. The only person I’ve ever known to set out on full Sunday afternoon photographic sessions in those same hills in search of one elusive shot that might capture the wind. Not the wind itself, of course, but a telling trace of its action in a shot worth keeping. No surprise in his naming the urban exploration photo/writing workshops Chemins Invisibles.

His fifty-second birthday will be this week, on the twelfth. I doubt this  is the main topic on his mind. On my desk: a book he had lent me at the start of the workshop with the kids. He asked about it a few weeks ago. I’d packed it with the rest, and promised to bring it back as soon as I’d unpacked. Debated with his former sister-in-law yesterday if this was an appropriate moment to have one of his relatives deliver it. We both decided it wasn’t.


Phone call this morning: Jean died last night.


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