École Rue Buffon, Paris, 1956

Words by Slawka G. Scarso

Art by Sandra Eckert

The photographer arrives in the classroom with his camera around the neck. The teacher doesn't need to tell the pupils to be quiet, the camera is enough to spread the silence between them, but she does tell them who the man is. She says he is famous, and his photos have been published as far as the United States. The children raise their hands to ask the same question: Pouvons-nous jeter un œil? Can we take a look?

They've never seen a camera so big. He lets them come closer, mais ne touchez pas.

The children then ask when they can pose, and should they all stand against the wall, or perhaps go outside where there's more space, more light? But the photographer says he won't be taking that kind of picture. They nod, pretending they understand.

When he points the camera at them, some smile, some fake a grumpy look and then laugh as soon as he turns away; most pull faces. Even the teacher smiles differently, stands straighter and speaks with a quivering voice, with each click of the shutter being released and closed again.

What nobody notices, not even the teacher, is that with each release of the shutter the film doesn’t roll, clinging on the sprockets to the next frame. For weeks, the photographer fakes taking a few pictures each day, but mostly he sits with them, he looks at themhe has his own desk nowuntil they no longer notice him, until he's no longer the photographer who came to school to take photos of them.

Come early May, he puts a roll of film in his camera at last, and starts to take photos: of children trying to remember an answer, showing the empty space for which the tooth mouse will leave a coin tonight, counting with their fingers, looking back for help while standing by the blackboard, sneaking a peek at the clock, hoping for the bell to ring soon.

And finally, at the opening of his new show, when the reporter approaches him, and asks Monsieur Doisneau, why didn't you work for so long? Why did you waste weeks with these children, months? the photographer smiles and says Oh, but I was working tout le long.

About the author

Slawka G. Scarso has published several books on wine in Italy and works as a copywriter and translator. Her words have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. She was shortlisted in the 2022 NFFD Microfiction Competition and longlisted in the 2022 Reflex Press Novella Award. Her novella in flash "All Their Favourite Stories" was commended in the 2022 Bath Novella in Flash Award and will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction. She lives in Italy. You can find her on Twitter as @nanopausa and on www.nanopausa.com.

About the artist

Sandra Eckert is a doodler, a dabbler, and a messy and restless individual. An avid naturopath and off-the-road walker, she finds inspiration in the unscenic vistas and hidden places. While her interests currently lie in the world of art, she has been known to tend goats, whitewater kayak, fish for piranha, and teach teenaged humans. She is fascinated by the lessons of the natural world, both seen and unseen. Sandra holds a BFA with certification, and has continued her education both formally and informally, though she is too distracted to gather up her credits. She lives in Allentown with her husband, Peter, and her dogs, Jack and Tobi. Additional works are available here.

Sandra Eckert's illustration is based on "École rue Buffon, Paris 5ème, 1956", photograph, by Robert Doisneau, 1956.