Found photograph / Philippe Charlier


I found your photograph in Paris, on the square of Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet, on a Sunday morning, when there is a crowd for the traditional Mass. You had to fall from a book that one of the needy sells on the balustrade, to buy a piece of bread.

And I try to rebuild a life from this piece of you, from that moment of you, from that fragile and incomplete imprint.The palm of my hands holds this sepia photo: you are proud, in military costume, and I know everything about you, up to your name. Who are you? What period are you coming from? Were you on the side of good or evil?

You hold your dark beret in your right hand, rolled between your fingers. A light forage on the left shoulder. A badge on the right pocket: you are a 2nd class soldier, parachutist. Your tie is asymmetrical (I see that you do not usually wear it, or maybe your fiancée was not there to right it…). Your mouth half open, your eyes straight toward the lens, hair cut very short. You’re thin, dry, athletic. The body leaning on the side, as this counterweight of the statues of Polycletus. In the vegetation, in the distance, your family home?

What if it was you, Peter?

Philippe Charlier, MD, PhD, LittD, is a forensic practitioner and anthropologist. He works on representations of the human bodies, and rituals related to diseases and death. He loves words, and more.

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