Waiting for war

Nicolas Marbeau


Libreville, Estuaire, Gabon

Waiting for war, it’s another story.

The story of men who leave their families.

Families who only signal themselves by their absence: a picture pinned to the wall or in the locker – at best. To not forget it, to not forget them, to remember their love, to remember her love, to make it dramatic, to act like they do in the movies.

We were not risking our lives. The sacrifice we were asked to make wasn’t that of our life but that of our time. Of society’s time. When we leave, time stops, we throw the anchor and until we come back, emotions vary very little. For those who stay, it’s a presence that was already lacking continuity that disappears.

The military life is a life of patience. A life of waiting for.

What do we do of this time that runs away? This suspended space in which one has to move into, in order to get out. Outside of work, games, series, sports and alcohol are just as many ways to not get nostalgic, to not think, to fast forward. We therefore wait to come back and take our place again, just like we left it.

Here is shown a group of colleagues, sometimes of friends. A group like there has been so many others. Comrades who share this suspended moment. Thus, in this project, traces of technology are scarce. We stay out of time, out of modernity. What happened there happened hundreds of times, in many countries, at all times.

This repetition itself is interesting - it is what makes these photographed soldiers eternal, like when man is struggling with waiting, and therefore struggling with himself.

And this repetition is also that of the faces. Most of these pictures are pictures of the group I worked in. Group 12. Being around them, you get used to them, you get into their everyday life – and into their boredom. One dives into it, and ends up knowing them.

In the end it’s a story that is deployed here. A story of daily life, a story uninteresting if it wasn’t for the description of the characters. It shows the face of the human in the army, far from the beauty of myth, far from honors. Remains the young, the buddy, the guy who could be sitting next to you in the bus. Less spectacular but easier to like. These faces remind us of the faces of people we know.

When you leave your country for a few months and stay constantly with the same people, you become an actor. You act in two ways. There is one, unofficial, which consists of acting, to keep the balance and prevent infighting. What character trait to hide, what appropriate behavior to adopt, what image to give of oneself? One becomes an actor, all day and all night, for the group to stick together.

And then there is the traditional acting, better known and more beautiful. An acting that uses dress, deportment, values and traditions.

I decided to let these out of my project: they have been shown a lot already and are less present in the soldier’s mind in daily life. Tradition remains essential as a link and as a theoretical justification of the group. That is to say that certain ways of beings and songs that accompany the soldiers in the army are also useful to make explicit the goals and values of the military.

“ France, oh my very beautiful France,

For you I would wage war,

I would leave father and mother,

Without any hope to see them again.”

Songs recall values – honor, courage, spirit of sacrifice – and, often, memories from home. They create a nostalgic spirit to which the soldier aspires to. And it is this gap between the longing for greatness and the reality of boredom that I wanted to capture.

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