What It Feels Like for a Girl: Intro

DELPHINE
Installation with 9-12 photographs
(dimensions variable) and text
2005


PHOTOGRAPHS






Paris, September 22, 2005
Metro No. 7, Palais Royal station

On the seat across from mine I notice a woman in her early forties, gazing thoughtfully in front of her, while a dog is dozing at her feet. She’s wearing sandals with silky straps tied around her ankles, which makes the whole figure of this tall, strong-featured woman unusually appealing. I’m staring at her. I wish to photograph her.
I ask her for permission. She consents with a smile, although she doesn’t understand, as she modestly admits, why I find her so interesting.
Her name is Delphine. The dog’s name is Roberto.
Everything comes to a standstill. Unexpectedly. You can hear the silence. Delphine puts her fingers in the shape of the letter H, then points her thumb forward imitating the letter I, and finally raises two fingers in the shape of V. “Oh, yes,” says she, “I forgot something,” crossing her fingers to form the shape of a plus (+).
The noise is unbearable – the metro is shaking like mad – I see a crowd of people pushing towards the door of the car. I can’t move, I have to sit down. I sit down next to her.
Delphine is HIV positive. She explains that now I know what no one else knows. “Or what everyone else knows,” she says quietly, more like to herself.
She asks me to take a picture of Roberto. Roberto isn’t going to live much longer. She wants me to send her the photographs. She’s writing down my name: Yelena.
A new roll of film.
Perhaps I should have stayed.
Tears.
A baptism of fire.


Paris, September 23, 2005

I have the photographs developed at the nearest photo laboratory. I spread them out on the floor looking for the portrait of the person with whom I spent thirty minutes that were so important to me.
She is in each photograph.
And she is in none of them.
I’m putting the photographs away in a drawer.

That’s how it started.