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O Magazine
2015-2017

by Anna Senno

Paris, January 2017

A performance project
joining photography
and storytelling 

Day 4

7 days,

Smoking
with Daniel

Every day for seven days, Anna Senno walks between her home and the laboratory to develop one roll of photographs taken that day.
24 frames – she singles out 1-5, which become the basis for her storytelling. Fiction intertwined with reality: a fixed framework with no pre-established content. One roll and one story per day, for seven days, in pictures and words.

Camera: Canon FT QL – 1966-1972, 50mm 1:1.8
Film: Ilford B&W, 400 HP5
Laboratory: Processus, Paris 

7 DAYS © Anna Senno. All images and text © 2017, Anna Senno. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used without prior written permission from the copyright holders. 

We met ten days ago, Daniel and I. I was looking for love. He was outside, smoking. I told him he should be careful with that. He told me I was playing with fire.

Someone you just met can all of a sudden seem to have been there all your life. Everything you describe, he can depict. Your worlds just fit together. I’ve never cared much for rational people, although I myself have a very rational mind. But I would say my rationality encompasses some sort of emotional rationality, I call it rationalité de cœur. Deeply romantic but with an unhealthy pride – I have refused to give my heart to anyone unless they give it to me first. This has of course led me to severely problematic relationships. I’ve been lured into an idea of love through the adumbrative desire of self-fulfilment.

I’ve seen five different psychologists over the last two years. They all think, after two-three sessions, that I am in no need to see them, saying I already have all the tools to get by. I am thinking that my case must be very uninteresting for them not to want my money every week. Or maybe they just feel threatened by my self-taught sagacity of the human psyche. Either way I have now stopped looking for a psychologist and have instead started to do sessions with myself. I record myself, play it loud and then record my answers to it as well. Then I play the whole conversation and I can sit and listen to “me number one” and “me number two” conversing as if I were a third person; it might sound narcissistic, maybe, but it is extremely intriguing and effective. It is also quite cheap.

I go to my friend’s office at Science Po in Saint Germain to do my sessions with myself – I believe it is important for my sessions to include the same sort of ceremonial procedure as if I went to see a shrink. So after office hours, my friend lets me use her office; I tried to pay her for it, but she said that would be impossible, she couldn’t take money for something she didn’t pay for. Not sure how that makes sense but I had no choice but to accept. So instead I give money to people in need on the streets every time I go there, paying them as if I was paying to go see a real psychologist. I always feel very talkative after these sessions and that is how I felt when I stumbled upon Daniel ten days ago.

A thin but freezing rain was coming down, the one that penetrates your bones and you cannot get rid off unless you take a hot shower. Daniel was trying to light his pipe by taking cover in a corner of the building I was coming out of. I proposed to act as cover for the rain and the wind to help him light his pipe. I thought he’d dismiss me, but he didn’t: he showed gratefulness and smiled, and this made him drop his pipe to the ground. The tobacco came out and he swore severely, only firefighters swore like that. Or maybe fishermen.

Some hours later I learned why he was so upset – he told me that the tobacco was a vintage Syrian Latakia tobacco he had come across some time ago. It is almost impossible to find and legend has it that it is cured over camel dung. Daniel said the importers had denied this, but that he himself had met Syrians who said it was true. Anyway, that was the last bit of the vintage, camel-dung-cured Latakia he had. He cursed the smile he’d given me, but not having met me, “please do not confuse the two” he told me. I looked up everything about pipe tobacco that night, there is actually a “Pipedia” on the web, but I realised I wouldn’t be able to find any new Syrian Latakia for Daniel. I had hoped to replace the bit that he lost when I met him so that he wouldn’t regret the smile he’d given me.

Daniel thought I worked at Science Po and was interested in my research. But I didn’t connect the two at first and thought he meant my personal research in life. That’s how I came to tell him about my quest for love. He was intrigued and wondered if I was teaching too on the subject and if he could sit in on one of my lectures, being himself a bored pensioner. That’s when I understood our misunderstanding, but wasn’t sure I wanted to set it straight, afraid to disappoint him. I didn’t disappoint him, but I did tell him the truth. I connected him with my friend so he could sit in on one of her lectures instead.         

We stood there under the rain for a while, I said I was sorry he lost his tobacco and I felt bad, I couldn’t just walk away. Daniel seemed perplexed, hesitating on what options he had – he clearly wanted to smoke his pipe, but no tobacco. I told him I knew about a smokers’ club nearby, it was like a secret spot I’d been introduced to by my ex-boyfriend’s father. Somehow I always end up getting very close to my boyfriends’ parents, more so than to my boyfriends. Daniel seemed intrigued and said, “let’s go”. I felt aroused.

Inside the smokers’ club is where we bonded. Daniel asked me more questions about love and my “research” in the matter. I noted down several of his questions, they were so poignant and enlightening, more so than any answer to them could ever be. I wondered if he didn’t have anywhere he needed to be, he wondered the same about me. We both said no. So we stayed and talked for many, many hours. Daniel got a Perique tobacco blend, grown in Louisiana, I learned. And the smoke had a pleasant spicy odour that stuck to my hair – I could still smell it when I went to bed that same night. I didn’t want to part with Daniel that evening, I was afraid I’d never see him again.

Over the course of the hours we spent together I felt Daniel knew everything about me and it wasn’t until days after I realised I knew nothing about him, or at least very little. We mainly talked about love. At times I thought he was Lebanese, he had the most lyric way of getting to his point, using allegories and depicting stories without making explicit statements. He’d tell me, I could go out on a boat every day and observe the waves and the currents, see the fish and be mesmerised by how the wales swum, but standing on the boat would never teach me how to swim. I guess he grew up by the water. He’d say “you can prevent yourself from drowning by wearing a lifejacket but you will never win the race with that thing on”. I felt he took me apart only to assemble me into a functioning useful machine.

really had no idea before meeting Daniel that I was so dysfunctional. I thought I knew how to do this and it was everyone else that had a problem. I think we all believe that at some point. I thought I was completely open to love and to becoming an “us”. But during the course of the evening I slowly realised I was being an “I” too scared of letting go and that I stayed in a position where no one could ever reach me. Accessible but unreachable, he said. I would believe I’d given all I had but I really didn’t. I had been hiding behind a grid of unforgiving, judgmental projection and self-destructive behaviour. I was making love the ultimate quest, instead of actually loving. This pipe-smoking marvel named Daniel made it all clear to me and I had opened up to him the way I had opened up to no one before. Maybe because there was nothing at stake. There was no projection of what we were to say to each other or how, and I wasn’t afraid of the image he’d have of me. I believe now, after having learned the wisdom from my precious Daniel, there ought to be a psychologist diploma waiting for me in my mailbox.

We parted, I was too overwhelmed to ask him to meet again and somehow I just assumed we would. We didn’t. I follow him, though. Not compulsorily or anything, just from time to time, to make sure he is still out there. It makes me feel reassured and less lonely in this world.

Before parting ways he told me: “You cannot see love, nor smell it, you cannot touch it, you cannot hear it, and you certainly cannot taste it. You can feel it, and only that. So why are you looking?”

I am not looking for love anymore. Daniel still smokes.