|© Anthony Suau / Black Star|
That morning, in northern Moldova, I was inside a brown Mercedes. A young Romanian was driving. The German writer Klaus Lutterbeck was sitting next to him. I was in the back. I watched the scenery and hoped that something magical would happen. The air was pure. The wheat fields seem to stretch out infinitely. And then, suddenly, I saw it.
A man was lying down. His body was wrapped up in his bike. He was asleep, his head resting comfortably on a haystack. His clothes were clean and tailored. With a worn seat and a leather bag on the handlebars, the bicycle had seen better days… It looked as if the man and his bicycle had slowly fallen down together. A little further on, three boys were playing cards in the middle of a field. On the road, a farmer was leading his cow. The atmosphere was serene. There was nothing to indicate that we were in the late 20th century. The only clue was the tarmac on the road. Most of the villages in the region aren’t even listed on maps.
“Stop the car!” I said, “But slowly, please, slowly.” I was afraid to wake the man. The car was just a few meters away from him. All three of us looked on as he dreamed. I got out of the car with my Leica M6 in hand and started shooting as I approached him. I knew that he could open his eyes any minute. In my viewfinder, the road was barely visible, the trees were disappearing, the light falling perfectly. It was at once powerful, sweet and poetic. It was a real photograph. It felt as though it were already printed on the insides of my eyelids. I got to the end of my roll after 24 photos, then I went back to the car to recharge my Leica, and Gabriel and I went to see the boys playing cards. We talked for a while. The man was still asleep. When we got back to the car, Klaus was writing. When I closed the door, I saw the man stand up. He was brushing the wheat from his clothing and preparing to get back on his bicycle. I didn’t have the time to speak to him, we were already driving away. We headed in different directions.
It was all over, but a week later, I brought the pictures to Paris, carefully preserved in my pocket. The image of the sleeping cyclist became one of my most popular and published photographs. This fleeting moment, like a moment from a fairy tale, is now engraved for eternity.
(Interview by Sophie Rosemont/ The Eye of Photography)