‘You tell me that you would like to capture the intimacy of people.’ This is the closing phrase of a piece of text by a certain woman named Marie Attard in Tu me dis – a seemingly simple booklet by Titus Simoens. The book is about the complex relationship between men and women, between photographer and subject.
In November 2015, the Ghent-based photographer is staying in Arles as a photographer in residence. Inspired by the Venus of Arles, a female beauty icon, he starts looking for the most beautiful woman in this city in the south of France. He meets Marie, tells her about himself at a bar and tries to gain her trust. She takes him home with her, he takes photographs of her, as a photographer does with his model.
In a sequence of 216 photos that starts with the cover of the book, she first sits at the table and drinks tea, smokes a cigarette or plays with her hair. She tilts her head, holds it with one hand. Then with two hands. She awaits, she sometimes looks bored. Her eyes do all sorts of things: smile, stare, dream, her hands and cigarette follow. But they also ask questions, especially when she’s waiting. What do you want from me, Titus? In the next fragment the lights are out and only a candle burns. She smokes. It’s dark, so he approaches with his camera. Her gaze is, again, filled with questions. What now? One photograph seems to show her half open mouth posing this exact question. What are you aiming for, photographer?