Jehsong Baak: touching a nerve

Paris at night is a story on Jehsong Baak, recently published on the NPR website. [See * editor's note.] However, as those who are familiar with his work will know, Baaks nightly visions are not restricted to Paris.
Which brings back a story.

A few years ago I was able to have him travel to Schiermonnikoog, the smallest Dutch Wadden Sea-island. As for small: just the one village, just the one road leading to the one beach. 
The idea was for him to cover a glimpse of life and times of the place. (Baak was actually one of a crowd of seven photographers, none of them being there at the same
time however. They only met afterwards, on the pages of the book that covered the affair. It was a nice commission - those were the days...)

On his first evening there, dusk setting in, he decided to go see the sea. He left the one village, took the one road – and got lost.
Where had this sea gone, he wondered. Looked like he was walking the surface of an entirely different place. Not an island at all.
Huge slice of nothingness it was. No end to it.

Somehow Baak found his way back.
Later that night, his room covered in darkness – he never cared much for bare overhead bulbs -, trees hovering the other side of the window, he switched on the TV.
It was then he saw the jaguar, slowly crawling towards its indiscernible prey. The instant summed it all up. He didn’t need to think about it, just made the shot.

It never made the book.
Done instinctively, he forgot all about it, only stumbling over the image long after he had made his way back to Paris. ('Ah, yes, the jaguar, must have been that first night...')

Come to think of it: it was recovered much the same way it was created in the first place: by chance.

Touching a nerve you tend to forget is there. That is basically what his images are about.

As for the nerve: on both sides of the camera.

As for the jaguar: there’s an animal planet even on the smallest of islands.


* Touching a nerve was published October 2009 on a previous version of the Werkmanslust website, in response to the publication NPR. The story got lost shortly while restructuring the site. Much like the jaguar, it recently resurfaced by chance.