Magic and lessons from a photographer in the Netherlands: Agnieszka Błachnio, Madam Butterfly


     It was a sunny, September morning. I was sitting at her kitchen table, having coffee and observing every little detail around us: golden rimmed yellow cups, a crystal butterfly on the fridge handle, a luscious hanging plant above our sitting places, one of her cats by the window. Miss Butterfly had breakfast ready: butter in a tiny butter cup, wild berries jam, Amsterdam cheese, and an assorted selection of bread. As I took in the sweetness of the room, she got down to business and began preparing my cappuccino using both of her coffee machines: She favors one for making the coffee and the other for foaming the milk. The later has been with her since her days in Poland. I wonder if keeping it is not about the foam but about holding on to her once upon a time... 

     Our conversation is far from superficial. It's as we had known each other from before. Miss Butterfly, my Agnes, is a photographer, a mom and wife, a woman. A Polish woman. I ask why there weren't family portraits in the living room or hanging on a wall. Her answer baffled me. "They represent the past. I don't focus on the past out of respect for the future." 


     A couple of hours later, we went up to her studio and got ready for a photo shoot. I had previously asked if she could take one I could use for ARTSY's website. She had graciously accepted. During the session, one of the things I loved was that she said she would ask me questions before taking the photo and that I could always answer or refuse by saying I didn't want to answer that. Miss Butterfly told me, "A photograph is like a weapon, you click and the moment is gone." And so it was: She fired her question, then me having a reaction I couldn't see; and the instant gone by her killing the moment with a click. 


     A couple of weeks later, Agnes texted me, "We have one picture where magic happened." Now, let me tell you: If you look at it, it might seem like a beautiful black and white photo. But to me, it was overwhelming. It still is. I feel as if she has captured my soul, a very intimate piece of me. When I talked to her about how I felt, she said, "Of course! There is nakedness in it. That's the magic!" How I wish we could remember what was asked before she clicked...


     I have requested Miss Butterfly to please find one other photo for business use. This one I will keep for me. This one is me, naked.