Une Femme a novel

jeroen robert kramer

Une Femme is an enigmatic and evocative book in which the present and the past are interwoven in Jeroen Robert Kramer’s poetic photographs of Beirut.

Une Femme, a story that plays out against the backdrop of Beirut. The texts are the ‘photos’, but take the form of diary-like fragments, real and fictional registrations of sounds and conversations, newspaper cuttings and advertisements. The photographs in this book are the illustrations: they show what is missing in the texts.

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Together they go on long walks through the city. During their meetings and conversations, the photographer takes photos of traffic lights changing colour, the planters that are put everywhere in Beirut, a landscape seen in cracks in a wall, a pile of sand in the street, a barber’s advertising poster, and shops stuffed with groceries. These are the photographs displayed; photographs that together form a story. They were made by Jeroen Robert Kramer, who shows striking similarities with the photographer in Une Femme.

The photographer is searching for beauty in ordinary life. He has had enough of grim spectacle — of the work he did when he was still working as a photographer of war for The New York Times — now he is searching for stillness. The interactions between these two central figures are evoked by photographs of their surroundings, marks on an abandoned drinks glass, or cats — the only creatures for which Khiar still feels any affection.

By the end of the story their fragile friendship has gradually fallen apart. Khiar has been warned by his doctor to stop drinking, and he has made it ever clearer that he has no interest in being photographed. For the photographer, how- ever, their friendship has become an obsession. He starts photographing thousands of objects in Khiar’s house. This obsession, too, has been brought into in the exhibition for us to experience; it includes not only the photographs of parts of Khiar’s house, but also all kinds of objects taken from it — a light bulb, a shower head, a kitchen clock. Doubt begins to grow. Are these really Khiar’s things, or is the old gentle- man a composite, the photographer, or perhaps Jeroen Robert Kramer himself? And who is the Femme around which this story supposedly revolves?

Ultimately, Une Femme shows that the answers to these questions are irrelevant. Une Femme is an enigmatic and evocative book in which the present and the past are interwoven in Jeroen Robert Kramer’s photographs of Beirut.