That morning, next to school, there was a pink pocket, a statistics manual of the 1980s, an old sepia photo, and the Sunday supplement of the New Heaven Register dated: 25th October 1970. I do not know who had left these objects of the past laid out as a still life. It was very weird. At the risk of distorting this surreal composition, I took only the last two elements. And I have watched them all the time.
Look at this picture. It was taken in France, near Saint-Quentin (in the Somme), as indicated by the artist’s signature, bottom right. Is it a wedding? A baptism? A family reunion? People are dressed up, they put on their Sunday clothes. They are beautiful, smiling, in spite of one child crying, in spite of the dog which has difficulty remaining quiet and stands on the pants that have just left the dyer. Here: mustaches as it exists no more. There: dresses that are seen only in museums. Bow ties, ties, white shirts: the big game. There is even an elegant mink. No couple stands holding hands (inconvenient, or nobody loves?). The benches, the chairs and the armchairs were taken out in the courtyard of the big farm. At the patriarch’s home. Brick walls everywhere (this is the north of France). It’s nice today, what a chance. You even have to squint your eyes there is so much sun.
They’re all dead now, you know? Buried. Perhaps even the bodies of some of them have never been found, between wars, travels, dramas?
Look at these faces, they are like facades of buildings. Nothing is known about what happens behind it. How many men, women, and children? How many secrets?
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.