Richard Avedon at the BNF


From October 18th, 2016 to February 26th, 2017, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) is presenting an exceptional exhibition of vintage prints made by the famous American fashion photographer, Richard Avedon (1923-2004). Contact sheets and other works reveal his special relationship with France. The documents are for the most part loaned by the Richard Avedon Foundation in New York, and for some, are exposed for the first time.

What’s funny about the above glamour photo of Audrey Hepburn on the number 63 bus is the advertisement for bug spray (Néocide). Not very glamorous!


Interesting that Jacqueline’s gaze here is on her husband, and not directly into the camera, which puts her in a secondary role.

This exhibition brings together some 200 pieces by Avedon and explores the unique relationship that the photographer built up with France. Famous and celebrated throughout the world for his fashion photographs but also for his celebrity portraits, Avedon had close ties with France. The exhibition focuses on the signs of this deep affection, from the 1940s when he came to photograph the fashion collections in Paris for the magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

The exquisite black and white photos (with a few colour shots as a bonus) are currently on show at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France on their François-Mitterrand  campus, gallery n° 2 (link at the bottom of this article).


What a ravishingly beautiful woman Liz Taylor was. I miss her. I miss all of the beautiful, talented, generous celebrities now gone. Here, I love the désinvolte (nonchalant) expression on her face, as if to say “Yes, I know I’m gorgeous. Just take the picture, please, Richard’s waiting for me in the bar.”

The venerable fashion photographer and portraitist had a deep love of France, where he was able to immortalise a huge number of the country’s celebrities – Jean Cocteau, François Truffaut, Yves Montand, Coco Chanel, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Genet, Jeanne Moreau, Isabelle Adjani …


Coco Chanel

If you do go to this exhibition, I suggest that you also visit one of my favorite spots in Paris called Bercy Village, located just across the river from the BNF via a beautiful wide footbridge called the passerelle Simone de Beauvoir. Bercy Village is where I’ll be going sometime in December to take photos of their Christmas fairy lights. I’ve written many posts on this blog about the delights of Bercy Village and Bercy Park. (link below on the Village as well as the Park and the footbridge crossing the river). The 12th arrondissement, located on the east side of the city, is not well known to tourists (and should be.) If I were to move, I’d move there.

Xmas lights – December 2016


I’ve decided to do a series on Christmas lights in Paris this year. Here are the lights at La Défense, the tall-towered business district just west of the city. I work at La Défense and this is my route home. I like the long, pedestrian-zone Esplanade because it’s car-free.


I took these photos walking home from work this evening at 6:15 pm (if I had a tripod, they would have turned out better.) The weather right now is perfect: cold, dry and sunny. I hope it lasts.


I’m particularly excited about Christmas this year. Don’t know why. The view in the photo below is facing due east towards the Champs-Elysées. You can see the illuminated Eiffel Tower in the bottom right-hand corner.


Here’s a similar post I did in December 2013 entitled La Défense Sparkle. It’s interesting to see the difference in the decorations.

Emmanuel Macron, man of the moment


Will this 38-year old outsider be the next President of France?

Yesterday, when Mr. Macron officially announced his candidacy to run for the office of President (as an independent), my first thought was of that idiom “to throw the cat among the pigeons.” In French, that translates into “laisser entrer le loup dans la bergerie” (let the wolf into the sheep pen). Because his presence has seriously caused upset among some of the heavyweight contenders: 71 year old Alain Juppé, 61 year old Nicolas Sarkozy and 62 year old François Fillon. The elders view him not only as a young upstart, but worse – un traître, a traitor because he stabbed President Hollande in the back (not literally.) Hand-picked by Hollande in 2012 to be a senior presidential advisor, he ended up being Hollande’s protégé … and then his nemesis. In 2014 Hollande appointed him Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs. For two years Macron “served his country” before quitting the government this year to run against Hollande for France’s highest office. Many people are calling him disloyal.

In his campaign speech, Macron attacked the elites without naming them, calling them people who “insult and exclude.” The problem is, Macron is one of those elites. The son of two doctors raised in the Picardy town of Amiens, he studied at ENA (École nationale d’administration), the elite postgraduate school that grooms civil servants. He then went on to become an investment banker for Rothschilds earning around €2 million a year.

You’ve got to admit, Mr. Macron has got a fine French head. A great nose. Elegant jawline and look at that strong brow ridge.


Emmanuel Macron will run as head of the centrist En Marche movement he created in April (En Marche translates into Forward and EM are his own initials). The movement advocates “new ideas… neither of the right nor the left”.

Yesterday on TV, Macron repeated his theme, saying: “The challenge is not for me to bring together the left or bring together the right. The challenge is to bring together France.”

Leonard Cohen dead

Leonard Cohen dead and Donald Trump in the White House.

I want to curl up into a ball and cry.

Canadian compatriot from Montreal, Leonard Cohen’s soulful, bewitching songwriting was a part of my growing-up years. Goodbye, you beautiful man. Thank you for the grace you gave us in this crass, sometimes ugly world.


prestigious literary prize Goncourt

This year’s prestigious “Prix Goncourt” was awarded to a 35-year old Franco-Moroccan woman. Her name is Leïla Slimani and the title of her novel is Chanson Douce, which means Sweet Song. She lives in Paris with her husband and child.

Félicitations, Leïla!

I heard her being interviewed on the radio this morning. I liked her sense of humor, her intelligence and outspokenness. I don’t normally read novels written in French. But I think I’ll buy this book because the story sounded intriguing.


Here’s an Agence France-Presse article from The Guardian newspaper:

Moroccans must rebel against the country’s “medieval laws”, the winner of France’s top literary prize has declared, following the arrest of two teenage girls who were caught kissing.

Leïla Slimani, who this week became the first Moroccan woman to win the prestigious Prix Goncourt for her novel Chanson Douce (Sweet Song), lambasted her homeland’s human rights record and the way women are treated.

A joint statement from about 20 human rights groups said the girls, aged 16 and 17, were badly beaten by their families after being filmed by a neighbour with a mobile phone kissing on the roof of a house in Marrakesh last week.

The statement said the pair, identified only by their first names, Sanaa and Hajar, were denied food for three days by the police who then forced one of them to sign a statement before releasing them on Thursday.

“The humiliation of citizens, the way they are kept down, encourages a political system based on disdain, humiliation and the abuse of power,” Slimani told France Inter radio.

“I think it is time people took this in hand and rebelled. The laws in Morocco are completely medieval, completely disconnected from reality … they ban sex outside marriage, homosexuality and adultery,” said the 35-year-old, whose award-winning novel is based on a real-life case of a nanny in the US accused of killing two children she was looking after.

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights has appointed a lawyer to defend the girls who, if convicted, could be imprisoned for between six months and three years. “We shouldn’t be hypocrites. Moroccans have sex lives outside marriage, and it’s good that there are homosexuals,” the author said.

Slimani, who raised eyebrows at home with her debut novel last year about a female nymphomaniac, said the oppression women suffered had nothing to do with religion.

“Lots of imams and enlightened theologians will explain that to you … It is a question of human rights, sexual rights, the right to dignity and in particular the dignity of women’s bodies.”

Slimani said a woman should not just be regarded as “a mother, nor a sister, nor a wife, but as a woman, an individual with their own rights”.

Torn between religious conservatism and opening up to the west, the overwhelmingly Muslim north African country has been the centre of a series controversies over moral issues in recent years.