The photographer has built a beautiful book around the cancer of her father. A dazzling portrait between “sadness and laughter” as indicated by the subtitle of this first book edited by Fisheye.
Here is a book that is rare. A book in which every page turned brings something essential. Maurice, traces the life of Charlotte Abramow’s father, a journey marked by the poignant couse of events of this man life, Maurice Abramow, born May 21, 1932 in Antwerp, Belgium. As a child, he knew the Second World War that took away his two cousins with whom he shared so much. Deported during the raid of Antwerp, the two little girls perished in the death camps. The young Maurice hardly escaped this destiny and was hidden for money in the Belgian countryside during the whole war. Then he became a medical student, and a researcher in the medical field, particularly interested in kidney in a famous American institute in Washington before returning to Belgium and managing several institutions, he became a professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and was decorated as Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold.
Descent into hell
This past, Charlotte Abramow tells us with archive pictures and with her words in the part of the book she titled “Genesis”. A double page is filled with photographs that his mother made of her father. Another double page shows Charlotte’s first photograph when she was a child: her parents. Touching portraits where we discover a man full of strength, who seems happy with his life, blithely roaming the beaches whipped by the wind in Belle-Ile-en-Mer. His daughter, Charlotte, had him pose for her first studio photograph while the model that was supposed to be there never came. She calls her project “My father, this hero”. But then came the disease. Cardiac cancer. It is necessary to operate to remove the tumor. Maurice is going down. The descent into hell: the 7th day after the operation a complication sends him into a coma.
For this period, coma, Charlotte Abramow leaves us with a double black page. As she explains in her text, her father then crosses a 43-day tunnel that eventually brings him back to life, in an extremely diminished state. The photographer documents this new stage which she titled “Reconstruction”. “Like a newborn,” said his daughter, who, along with her mother, welcomed him back home after hard fights in various hospitals. A very long and painful reeducation starts, and Charlotte has trouble recognizing her father. But she manages to seize the moment of a light that suddenly passes in his eyes, a shy smile, a new gesture, a word.
And then here is the “rebirth”. In the summer of 2014, Maurice is better. During a vacation they spend in the South of France, Maurice even gets up from his chair to send back a ball while Charlotte and her mother are in the pool. A nothing at all gesture, but that tell so well the victory of this man on the disease, who suddenly begins to revive. “He speaks, laughs, sings. A great happiness seizes us, “says Charlotte and she adds:” all we had lived and were so afraid of not being able to live again “. The photographer relates the first time that Maurice started to shave on his own, but do not forget to say: “as he ages, he becomes like a child again”. His father now has funny whims. He gets up at night to make toasts and leaves them in the toaster for so long that they start to burn. He sometimes finds a clear, precise memory before returning to a strange planet. “I’m afraid of being a bird that can barely fly,” he write then.
But he also writes, “I want to be.” This formula, Charlotte embellishes in the last pages of his book. The artist has created a photographic tale where, with powerful staging, she revisits the episode of her father’s illness. The first part is devoted to coma. Maurice is then dressed in a costume of Pierrot as a child who must suddenly fight against an obscure monster. Then comes the waking up, the shirt is torned but patched by waves of tapes, the man tries to return to the world. Then follow the “disorientation” or the “language” which testify to the difficulties that Maurice meets daily. One section is particularly moving. The one where the photographer poses with her mother and her father. They are all decked out with crowns and Charlotte has titled this section “The Kingdom”. There they are, triumphant, conquering, having beaten death. A queen, a princess and a king of life.
Charlotte Abramow, Mauritius