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Jacques van de Weerdt


Jacques van de Weerdt,

AV pedigree…


I started in AV in the 70ies, at Liege, in Belgium, where a man, François Oury, launched a festival.  I keep a deep respect for this gentleman who introduced us, young AV workers, into the diaporama world…
As the Mechelen festival was held one year every two, the Liege festival took place the other year.  So that, in these times, Belgium had its two festivals: a Flemish one and a Walloon one!

In my beginnings in photographic clubs, I was surprised to see only works with nice photographs … but with very few sense !  Nice pictures and nice musics … but nothing else!  No stories, no stress, no characters… Only charming things to see at tea time with nice ladies and brave gentlemen…. To explain my surprise, I have to tell that, in my youth, I had worked in theaters during some years.  I liked literature and theater and I felt able to write and say texts for diaporamas.

So, I created diaporamas with sense and, sometimes, dramatic atmosphere.  But it was without any success.  Because, in the clubs and contests, in the juries, were only photographers who didn’t care about texts and sense!  More, I have to confess my photographs were not very good, so that it was easy for them to sack my works. But I continued because some friends liked my diaporamas and encouraged me to go on.

In Belgium, people said: “Nobody is prophet in his own country”.  My luck came from France where my diaporama “Inch Allah” was awarded second prize in the festival of Angouleme in 1981.  It was a very hard diaporama about racism which issued a lot of discussions in and out the festival.

Then things went more easily.  I think I had found my audience in France because there people are more sensitive at literature and speaking diaporamas.

“La légende noire” (the black legend) (1983) was another step forward.  For this diaporama about the conquest of Mexico by Cortes, I asked help to Urbain Kimplaire,  one of the best diaporamists of my club.  We intended to show a complete view of this story, using a little stage, little statues of Indians and, in the background, landscapes projected on a screen. That needed to open and close the camera two or three times for a single photograph!  During the first evening, only three pictures were taken! (The garage of Urbain had been transformed into a stage for our scenes during five or six weeks.)

But the result was amazing.  So amazing that F. Oury, the chairman of the festival of Liege, didn’t accept we enter the festival, fearing we won the Grand Prix!  No problem: we won three other great prizes and seven single prizes in other festivals.

“Miners on strike” (1985) was also a great moment.  It was during the great miners’ strike, in England, under the government of Margaret Thatcher.  I had followed a belgian trade unionists journey who intended to give lots of toys for miners’ children for Christmas.  And there, in the Kent and in St Hellens, I saw the ground of the strike: miners in front of police, lots of policemen. Jacques van de Weerdt I saw too the poverty of all these workers and their hospitality.
The sequence was first shown in Folkestone where it was thesubject of hard discussions inside the audience and abroad.  In another meeting, Sir George Pollock attacked me, shouting I did not know England, all my diaporama was false, etc !… But, it was easy for me to answer: “look at my pictures, I did not invent anything”.

Breendonk sans fin” (Breendonk without end)(1987) is a fiction.  Breendonk was the only “concentration camp” in Belgium, where people were gathered before to be sent to Auschwitsch .  For this demonstration, I employed two actors we can see at the starting of the diaporama.  Then, we hear only their voices and the audience can follow without problem. This sequence obtained a lot of prizes and three Grand Prix in festivals.

“Savimby the best”, 1998, was done after the pictures were taken.  In my club, a photographer came one day with pictures of villages in Burundi.  He did not know how to show them or how to make a diaporama with. 
I asked him the pictures and came back at home to think about them.  We were in 1997, three years after the Tutsi genocide.  Then, I built a story mixing the games of children (a little cars race) and the remember of the genocide (but not clearly said). This diaporama had a great success not only in diaporama world but also abroad because it was telling about human rights.

I met Jean-Paul Petit in 1982.  Then, the “photo club des PTT de Paris” invited me to show my diaporama “Come to my country” which is a joke about the famous Marlboro cow-boy coughing more and more after his cigarette !...

For this moment, we remained friends and, in a second time, started to make diaporama together.  I remember: “Bergstaden” (1991), “La flamme” (2001),  “Le gnou cendré du Caucase » (2003), « Un gamin » (2005),  « La grande prairie » (2011).

I think we are complementary: I have ideas and I can write and tell them but I am very poor in skills.  Jean-Paul has ideas too but, more, has a lot of skills in images and sound.  So, in the making of a diaporama, we discuss a long time, alter the text and even the idea before creating the sequence.

“Un gamin”, (2005) maybe, is the best example of our collaboration.  In Bruxelles, I had seen an exhibition about the french poet, Arthur Rimbaud.  And, we remember, one day in the summer, we were in a park, in Paris, looking at Pablo playing in the sand.  At this moment, we were working over another diaporama of which I have forgotten the title.  And I showed my new idea: the two faces of Rimbaud: a bad boy and a great poet!

I had any pictures, only the text.  So Jean-Paul hesitated a while before to accept the challenge.  Then he headed and gathered pictures from any sources to build the sequence.  Idem with the soundtrack he enriched deeply. We discussed a lot over the text (I did not like to alter it!) and finally we issued a diaporama which had a great success.

“La grande prairie” (2011) (The great prairie) is the last work we did together.  It started because Jean-Paul loved the text of a previous diaporama I made in 1994, “L’Amérique selon Hopper”, ( America according to Hoppper) based only over the pictures of the painter.
This time too, Jean-Paul made a wonderful work to enrich the sequence.  He kept the soundtrack of the two sisters but enriched it with a lot of musics and sounds.  More, he put a dynamical pace using all the skill of M-Objects (zooms, traveling…).  So the new diaporama is an entirely new one.

Conclusion.   Maybe, the diaporama will die.  But, for the moment, we still enjoy it, create new sequences, meet lots of AV-workers, attend festivals; travel and show our works before audiences…
We had been the good generation for this art.  We lived the golden years of AV, just when slides and recorders became to work together and before the new media (TV, Internet, videos…) invade our screens.
We were the happiest AV workers in the world.  No matter if this miracle doesn’t last some centuries.   We are living here and now.


Jacques van de Weerdt