In 2012, we published a portrait of Sylvie Grumbach by Caroline Mangez.
For nearly twenty-five years, at Visa, there has been a king (JF Leroy) and his queen. In Perpignan, their Kingdom, there are no secrets for Sylvie Grumbach. She has walked its streets on two feet, one foot, even on crutches, and has seen people at their worst. She’s seen it all. With a single glance, she can comfort you or shoot you down.
She stands frowning at the projector. Something’s wrong, she says laughing but not really. Nothing escapes her. Sylvie has eyes in the back of her head and spies everywhere: her army of followers that has swollen to a legion. In their ranks, there are veterans and the famous “Visettes,” smiling girls that give you badges and directions, and by the end of the week they recognize you. The way that Gaddafi paraded around with his amazons, Sylvie forms battalions of these “young women from the provinces” ready to conquer Paris, then the world.
Incidentally, the festival was probably more fun during the Golden Age of photojournalism than in this time of crisis… But no one heaves a sigh, not a trace of nostalgia. By JF Leroy’s side, Sylvie is at the helm, even in the highest winds. They’re a real couple. It only takes her a second to understand exactly what he means, it only takes a word to calm him down, and she kindly observes his whims.
She was queen of the palace at Pam’s, and she’s still a queen at the Palais des Congrès. She makes everything look stylish, from an Empire desk to a Formica table. She’s the source of the nobility, not the place. She inhabits it. Every year a different hairstyle, short with subtle variations, like a Japanese garden. Her glasses are more or less severe each time. Her style is inimitable, elegant and unchanging. Black or white, like her perspective: cutting. She can seem cold. The distance is her extreme politeness; it’s up to the other to make an effort. Sylvie has this incredible ability to transcend age and milieu. She’s at ease with anyone and everyone and everything. From a young age she learned to adapt. The only thing she still can’t control is her black dog, Chabry, always at her side, who bares its teeth the minute Sylvie starts dancing, which always happens when the festival ends.
The rest of the year, between forays into others worlds, of Fashion, Art and Culture, it’s three parts yams and four parts ayurvedic massage. Sylvie keeps a watch over the vast, diverse tribe of photojournalism. Oyster stew, green garden peas and steamed potatoes, vodka—with or without buffalo grass—and great wine, good news and bad news, depending on the season. She somehow gets you to swallow it all. She could make butter macaroni and ham taste like caviar, and the opposite. Everything she gives is so immense, so delicately tender, that she seems far away. But in fact she’s right in front of you.