This photograph of the Forbidden City in the snow captivated me from the outset. And it is associated in my mind, as well, to a conversation I had with Marc that makes it still more precious to me, and more present. Contact with the artists is one great privilege of our trade: the conversations, the work, the friendship they grant us – all of that is a source of incomparable enrichment, and sometimes gives us the sense of better understanding their world, of participating a little in their creation. Marc would talk to me about his first great journey into Asia and about his difficult arrival in China – the circumstances of his life in Peking in that winter of 1957, the ordeal of the cold, the strangeness of that land where westerners were rare – and about that snowy dawn when he walked through a sleeping town to reach the Forbidden City.
Beyond its formal beauty, this photo is striking for the atmosphere it exudes: the silence of the snow, the tranquil look of the scene give the sense of a surface covering over something unexpected, perhaps some menace. The City – bearer of an idea of reclusion, of secrecy – is no mere stage-set drowsing beneath the snow and mist. It harbors a very ancient history. The figure on the pathway in the snow, a pathway shaped by the enclosing somber walls, fencing, barbed wire, has itself something mysterious, indecipherable about it; an image risen up from the past – a guard or a mere passerby…? A snowy morning on the far side of the earth, at the “center of the world”: The Middle Kingdom still asleep.