Para mi primo exiliado en Chile

My cousin Marc has always been a source of admiration for me, not because of his incredible intellect, not because of his formidable talent as a photographer, but because, in his twenties, he had the courage to look outside the box and he chose an unusual life path.

A law degree and two subsequent specializations, one from a Dutch university and one from a British university, had virtually guaranteed him a highly successful career in the legal spheres, but to my recollection, he never used any of his degrees after university.

In the 60s, my sister Odile, cousins Barbara, Marc and Gerard

After returning from Great-Britain, Marc embarked on a six-month trip to China (in the early eighties when it was still untouched by Western influence), then flew to Chile. He never looked back. He lived for photography. Abstract, crazy beautiful photography.

In Santiago, he rented a room with a single window and, for years, he photographed objects and human shapes in this square of light. Not a trace of luxury. Not even a fridge. Only art.

Gerard, Marc and Barbara.

Now, in all honesty, had I been made to wear lederhosen in my childhood, I may have exiled myself to Chile as well. Rather sooner than later. After copious therapy.

Marc makes rare sporadic appearances in Belgium. The last time I saw him was years ago. Having recently reconnected with his brother Gerard (the barbecue warrior), I wish I had the opportunity to hang out with Marc too.

Last May, we threw a surprise party for my mom’s 75th birthday, and I, of course, documented the event and designed an album for her. So Marc, this one is for you. That’s what we look like now (I understand you may have felt the need to put an ocean between your family and yourself, but, see, the past always catches up with you…)

That’s the cover. It’s my mom riding the dinosaur. She has a good sense of humor. I think. I hope. She has not seen the album yet. I might get disowned.

My brother, Chris with an h, and sister, Odile with none, whisked my mother away to the movies and I hid in the rhododendrons (with the bees) until the coast was clear. I let the caterer in and the guests began to arrive.

My mom is blind as a bat (like me.) It took her a while to realize who the 25 strange people in the driveway were.

My mom had no idea I was in Belgium! When she saw me among family and friends, she thought I was a person who resembled me a lot!

My sister Odile (the Quintessential Cat Lady) and my aunt Nanou. Not fighting. Yet. I cannot begin to tell you how long it took me to figure out how to seat people, a matter of vital importance in my highly volatile family.

Gerard and Marcel, a family friend since the fifties. These two put together have a caustic sense of humor which reminds me of the barbs exchanged during our bi-weekly family lunches back in the seventies and eighties.

Odile’s son, Nicolas, and his girlfriend. My nephew (nefiou) is quite the entertainer.

Parenthesis: nefiou after having worked in the yard. As stated, quite the entertainer… I digress. Back to the party:

Feisty Marie-Helene, one of my mom’s best friend. Sharp as a tack.

The two compadres.

The catering company, Art’aste, did a great job.

Gerard, my cousin Valerie (who used to dismember her Barbie dolls) and Antoine (nefiou Sr.)

Gerard’s wife Nancy and Olivier, the husband of the Dismemberor. Sill in one piece. A miracle.

My crazy photographer brother (and his new Nikon D3) and the Dismemberor eying the camera suspiciously.

Marcel’s wife, Natha, having a “come to Jesus” with Nanou (I had seated them at different tables for dinner but all bets were off after dessert) – in the corner, one of my mom’s sculptures. I love her art. I liked the way she paints but I LOVE the way she sculpts. Every time I’m in Brussels, I steal all her sculptures and put them in my room. They are all mine.

Nancy, the Dismemberor, Gerard and another of my mom’s sculptures. Mine.

Between my brother and me, guests got photographed under every imaginable angle.

My brother sucks but I love to photograph him

The two waiters. My brother and I thought they were a pretty hilarious pair so at the end of the evening we kidnap them to the photo studio and played a little. They got in trouble with the caterer for disappearing on him. Chris and I felt like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

The back cover. The album is on its way to Belgium. 30 pages of memories. Happy memories I hope. They’d better be happy considering the sweat, the blood, the ANGST it took to organize the whole affair! I’m just extremely relieved everyone survived and no one got sued.

22 responses to “Para mi primo exiliado en Chile

  1. Thanks for sharing this. There is nothing that can replace family.

  2. color photography is nice, it has ‘colors’.

    but your black and white photos capture a depth in people that one would have missed if they were in color. I see the color of the people and their life in your black and whites.

    my ego would love to see a black and white of myself, captured by your eye.

  3. You have a fun family, that seems to be full of artists – which is great! I love your mom’s sculptures as well (yes, I know they are all yours, but one can admire form afar, right?).

    And, as always – great photos!!

  4. Hey again. I have come bearing an award. Check out my recent post here.

  5. This is a tribute to the warmth and depth of family that goes beyond words.
    Yours, Nathalie is a gift of talent, soul, ingenuity, and an original-ness that would be any mothers’ greatest object of love and a sense that she produced some brilliant children.

    Your families’ gene pool is worthy of cloning.
    A truly amazing posting once again.

  6. Hey Matt – thanks. Maybe your next post could consist of “8 things that are guaranteed to piss off your family members”…

    WarriorWitch – Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll have a project entitled the faces behind the blogs: I’ll tour the US (and Australia, New Zealand and Japan) and make portraits of all of you guys. Perhaps WordPress would finance it. I don’t think they will. Thank you for your beautiful compliment about finding color of people in my B&Ws.

    Nava! Wow! An award. I love that! My ego thanks you profusely. Keep your hands off the sculptures though. They are mine. All mine.

    Ah Bonnie, it gets warm all right in my family. Hot is probably more like it. Must be the Italian origins. We are definitely not cloning the gene pool though. The Pentagon would send us en masse to Iran to operate as a genteel type of WMD.

  7. The extremely shallow depth-of-field you use with headshots has a really amazing effect. I’m tempted to ask all sorts of weird technical questions about the camera setup, but I’m afraid that might take away from my admiration for the richness of emotion and life that you’re capturing. These are simply fabulous pictures. – Tim

  8. I was surprised at your photography works….or no, no, no….impressed! that should be the word. really, the photos are perfect. B&W photos are sooo elegant. I bought a Nikon D60 about 4 days ago coz I have always wanted to try the adventure of photography. I haven’t used it so much yet. I only took a couple pics of some flowers.

  9. the beautiful photos you took really inspire me to be patient on learning photography.

  10. thegirlfromtheghetto

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, but most importantly, the photography is wonderful. I wanted the Nikon D3 so bad … got the D80 intead. Photography is a hobby for me rather than a career …

  11. Nice series. I really like the image of “my brother sucks”. I think that it’s a very good character study.

  12. You had me at “lederhosen”

    Very nicely done. I really like how you flatten the color fields. It gives a great deal of story telling to your photography as well as showing the care which you obviously take.

    Very good, indeed. As usual!

    -Turkish Prawn

  13. Tim, thanks for the visit and all the compliments. I’m glad you did not get technical on me because I’m more of a feeler than an analyzer. My brother who sucks is the technique guy, I’m the sister who still cannot recover from being paid for doing something she loves. I guess that might transpire in the images.

    Laura, how can you take pictures of flowers when you own a bengal?! Looking at your shots, I just want a cat again. Unfortunately, The Alligator dog eats cats for breakfast so that’s not going to happen for a while. I’m so flattered I could inspire you!

    Girl from the Ghetto, ma petite guillotineuse, yeah the D3 would have been nice. I’m a Canon girl myself but the high ISO capacity of the D3 is very tempting indeed. I’m not much into flash photography for events (obviously!), so the D3 may be on my list. It also has an auto ISO function that I might kill to own. Wishful thinking… If your interest in photography is purely from a hobbyist perspective, you sure do not want to carry around a D3.

    Hi Razz – Tell me – does my brother’s profound suckitude seep through my images? Good!

    Mr. P., does Short Stack know how to pronounce lederhosen? Tell him to run if he ever hears the noun.
    Thanks for liking my album. I hope my mom does not kill me for the dinosaur reference. We’ll see. The book is on its way to the Belgian Kingdom.

  14. I take pictures of Wyatt all the time and I guess he’s sick of that. Seems like the silly cat can already tell if i’m about to take pictures of him coz he turns his back on me when he sees the camera, lol. Anways, I just wanted to see if the linking works.

  15. Wow, I’m completely lost in the event. Terrific work – I need to borrow some of your skill when I pick up the camera.

  16. I’m so glad to see you now have lots of comments! Your photos are always so beautiful, so it’s great to see more people have found your blog. 🙂

    I found out I passed my photography course today. Yay! And I hope to have enough time and energy this weekend to have a go at the photomeme you tagged me with.

  17. No no no, no skill borrowing! You got it all wrong! The whole point is you hire ME to document events. It frees your hands to separate family members who are trying to strangle each other. In exchange, I sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to blog about your crazy family. Although I have to say that blogging about the Penisintheboat clan sounds oh so very tempting…

    Congrats Nezza! Yeah… There was the small matter of not linking my username to my blog… I realized the small imperfection after 6 months of frantic blogging and feeling unloved, unimportant, irrelevant, and overwhelmed with profound sentiments of dejection. I feel much better.
    About that meme, it has been TWO weeks! About time sister!

    Bonnie, if you read this, I’m still awaiting your meme too.

  18. Okay. Your mother’s sculptures. No, they are mine. No, wait, they belong to all of us who visit here. Because they birthed you: the pose of the first one! An unexpected pose, just tucking her foot under her…not quite there, but in the act of comforting herself, leaning slightly off center…Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

    And, the other sculpture? Whoever is cradled there is in good hands, strong powerful hands. We shall not fall and break our head or even skin our knee.

    As I said, your mother’s sculptures belong to all of us through your own art.

  19. I just came back to look again. That dinner table photograph!! Oh, my.

  20. Great photos!
    The album cover is plain fantastic!
    You are way beyond therapy.
    I guess it’s a family gene!


    Great pictures (yep, as usual! …)

  21. Ah Pat, you are sadly mistaken. They are MINE, MINE and ALL MINE (although lately her abstract sculptures have become humongous and therefore difficult to carry to my room – I think she did it on purpose.)
    Seriously, she is a very talented lady who unfortunately lacks self-confidence when it comes to her art. It just breaks my heart.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the table! It was very pretty and the centerpiece doubles up as a wreath. The morning after the party, I saw the flower arrangement on its own and, not recognizing it, I asked my mom who had had the bad taste to bring her a funeral wreath for her 75th birthday (on the table though, it looked quite nice!)

    Hey Brother that Sucks! The album is on its way. Make sure to photograph her reaction at her stint with the dinosaurs. I know we’re way beyond therapy – that’s good, we get to save the therapy money and invest it in camera equipment. Works for me! How about a photo trip to Chile next year?

  22. I don’t know what else I can add to everyone else’s comments
    just that your mother is very lucky to have a family like yours and a daughter like you who can capture her special occasion in such an amazing way.

    Hats off to you, Nathalie! (with an H)

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