November 2022. I have now been to Belgium four times, to the “CHRYSALIS” sheltered housing. This place welcomes eleven people with mental disabilities who, like thousands of others, have not found refuge in France, either for lack of reception facilities or because of their behavioral problems.
This place, within which many distresses are appeased, is imbued with great humanity. There is a real family spirit there, in which I feel good.
After explaining the meaning of my approach to the educators, the whole team joined my project. Their constant presence by my side was essential, especially in delicate moments.
At each stay, I stayed two weeks. I was in total immersion. From morning to evening, I wandered with the residents. I shared their daily life. My room, located not far from theirs, allowed me not to miss any moment of life.
Communication was not easy. Almost all of them did not have the ability to speak, I had to content myself with furtive glances, small reassuring gestures of tenderness, but also moments of anger and aggression.
For a photographer, living in this place is like entering into a religion. This requires constant attention and availability. We don’t cheat here. Each photograph mus be earned. No inopportune snapping away, but softness and delicacy. We do not steal an image, we borrow it with modesty. You have to know how to withdraw and put down your camera when the situation gets worse, stay free in your head to capture a moment of humanity, try to decipher the codes to enter their world. Do not force anything. In short, love them.
This mystery of mental illness overwhelmed me. How do these extraordinary people appropriate this living place? How is their suffering, their difficulty of being, manifested? What relationship do they have with the team of educators, which accompanies them in their pain and confinement? Many questions and very few answers.
This family, I give it to you to see, to look at, to consider, to feel. I present it to you as in a play. Here are the actors: Stéphanie, Joël, Mario, Chantal, Patrick, Sandra, Monique, Willy, Lily, Jordan and Vincent. They will evolve in front of you, according to their moods and their anxieties.
Each of them lives in a world to which no one has the keys, an incomprehensible, unpredictable and chaotic universe. They stroll through their intimate labyrinth. Sometimes they are serene and peaceful. Magic moment, their faces radiate, they seem happy, for a moment.
Jean-Louis Courtinat : Les souffrances de l’âme
May 11 – July 8, 2023
Galerie Fait & Cause
58 rue Quincampoix, 75004 PARIS
Wednesday to Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.