Short story: A portrait in SLR by Hiromi Suzuki

Short story: A portrait in SLR by Hiromi Suzuki

A portrait in SLR by Hiromi Suzuki

The one you love outside the camera is the one you love inside the camera, and they are not the same.

In the groomed wide garden, the flowers and the leaves of plants were shining brightly with the autumn rain of the last night. It was the dawn of a fine day, and the shining droplets were morning dew. I was asked to take a picture for a rookie’s film audition and I found the address near Daitabashi Station where I was told to go by email.

He waved his hands from the balcony on the second floor in bright sunshine. I turned my brand new single-lens reflex camera to him.  By backlight, his appearance was only a human silhouette. His mother was in the dining room, lining up the glasses of orange juice, bacon and eggs with green peas and breads on the table.

“How about having breakfast together,” said his mother, and prepared the knives and forks. She used to be an actress. That beautiful face with a smooth and sad expression – I wanted to push the shutter of my camera. At the same time, he came downstairs and entered the Japanese style room for changing clothes.

He smiled innocently from the gap of the sliding door. For me, he was shining like morning dew. I tried to switch the camera mode to monochrome, but my hand was in trouble. Since the way of using the compact camera and the Single-Lens Reflex camera were different, I could not do it well.

Wearing a Brooks Brothers’ dress shirt and McQueen coat, he poked the fried eggs casually with a fork. He looked like a real Hollywood actor. At least, in my SLR. In front of me was he who laughed at silly conversations and watched Ernst Haeckel’s radiolarian pictorial book seriously in the library. The still images in the liquid crystal display were dreams which never awaken. He became a mannequin without physical body, smooth, sleek, pumiced by the grace and aerated by the Harcourt Studios glow* in a portrait I was building up.

In fact, he was a mannequin. After finishing the breakfast, his mother lifted him up lightly with one arm and put him in the shade of the garden. The former actress pointed at the small bubbles welling up from dry soil in the pond.

She said: “It is the footprint of Daidarabotchi as a single-eyed giant in Japanese mythology. If the spring comes, plenty of water will spring.”

I liked his face.

L’iconographie d’Harcourt sublime la matérialité de l’acteur et continue une «scène » nécessairement triviale, puisqu’elle fonctionne, par une « ville » inerte et par conséquent idéale. Sta- tut paradoxal, c’est la scène qui est réalité, ici ; la ville, elle, est mythe, rêve, merveilleux. L’acteur, débarrassé de l’enveloppe trop incarnée du métier rejoint son essence rituelle de héros, d’archétype humain situé à la limite des normes physiques des autres hommes. Le visage est ici un objet romanesque; […]**

Someday I will fall in love with him, sparkling like morning dew on the screen of the cinema.

Images: hiromi suzuki, 2018


* ‘THE HARCOURT ACTOR’ from Roland Barthes Mythologies, 1957 (translated by Richard Howard, 2012)

** ‘L’acteur d’Harcourt’ from Roland Barthes Mythologies, 1957 (original text)

Author notes:

Daidarabotchi is a giant in Japanese mythology. Daidarabotchi’s great footprints are said to have created lakes and ponds. There is Tamagawa Aqueduct under the Daitabashi Station in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. The name of the place “Daitabashi” comes from Daidarabotchi. Daidarabotchi has similarity with the Cyclops in Greek mythology and the Troll in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore: a single-eyed giant.

Studio Harcourt is a photography studio founded in Paris in 1934.  In 1954, Barthes wrote: “In France, you’re not an actor if you haven’t been photographed by Harcourt Studios.”