Frédéric Martin, 45, chose to photograph his partner, suffering from Borderline personality disorder, to accept the disease. He signs, with L’absente (The absent, ed.) an intimate and poignant work.

Fear, and hopes. “Here is what my daily life is about. The project L’absente was born almost by chance, following a picture taken on a winter’s day: my partner, already sick then, was walking along a wall, blind. As I was looking at her, I realised that this was the exact metaphor of our life: the wall, night time, the cold…”, Frédéric Martin recalls. The 45-year-old teacher is also the author of a poignant series dedicated to his wife, suffering from borderline personality disorder – an affliction causing depression, anorexia and morbid thoughts. This photographic work is not a therapy, nor a remedy. “This series is mainly a screen between the disorder, its violence, and myself. It was a way to share our everyday life while protecting ourselves from its sometimes-devastating effects”, he tells us.

At the end of 2018, after some portfolio readings and a masterclass animated by FLORE, Sylvie Hugues and Adrian Claret, he realised how inseparable photography was from his daily life. “I see the medium as a diary. The word ‘catharsis’ may be a bit strong, but it has become a need, helping me to formalise a certain melancholy.” An epiphany which occurred after he read Antoine d’Agata’s book Mala Noche. “I was impressed. Reading this book, I understood that image could evoke with mundanity and violence very intimate elements. It helped me rethink the more technician aspects of my work”, he tells us.

The worst moment of her illness

In this flood of feelings and melancholic images, one picture stands out. “My partner has her back turned to me, she is bare-chested. Her body is emaciated, her ribs prominent. This image represents the worst moment of her illness. She weights 46 kilos, is depressed and anxiety has taken over. Yet, she is alive, and has this gesture of modesty, protection. Paradoxically, she is offering me this moment. Everything could have gone wrong at this time”, the artist says. Today, his wife is “getting – a bit- better”. And his photographic practice has evolved. “I stopped seeing photography as something that could be but rather something that is, he tells us. A good photography must always be honest. I’ve also learnt not to lose hope, and to admire my partner and her strength. Life can destroy one person. Learning to put my misfortune, my qualms into perspective – I’ve grown. I’ve realised that people possess an unbelievable thirst for life”. With L’absente, Frédéric Martin signs a hymn to life, as well as an ode to love.

This series was produced during FotoMasterclass – accompanying photographers during an 8-month period.

© Frédéric Martin