Thursday, April 14, 2011

Paris at Night, Patti Smith on "Love on the Left Bank"

There is some delicious stuff on Vanity Fair online this week. First, someone pointed an online group I am part of in the direction of these marvelous nighttime Paris photographs, mostly from the 1920's and '30's.

Brassaï, La Casque de Cuir, 1932. From
Robert Doisneau, The Stairway, 1952. From

The full set is available here.

As lovely as the nighttime photos are, it was this feature that really got my attention. A 1954 photo-novel called Love on the Left Bank by photographer Ed van der Elsken’s has just been reissued. There are some amazing photos from the book on the web site, with this intro from the tremendous Patti Smith:

 I opened it and was greeted by a dark and intriguing café scene on the grittier side of the City of Light. It was Jack Kerouac, Parisian-style. I was especially captivated by the image of a girl, the likes of whom I had never seen before. She was Vali Myers, the Beatnik gypsy mystical witch who reigned over the rain-soaked streets. With her wild hair, kohl-rimmed eyes, loose raincoat, and cigarette, she offered herself with abandon and self-containment. She mirrored what I aspired to aesthetically—to be unconscious of style, yet style itself.

Below, some shots from this book that I must get my hands on this very instant.

all images from

(Seriously, where has this perfect-for-me book been all my life, and why am I just hearing about it now?) The full set is here, with more information about Patti Smith here, and more about Vali Myers here. 


  1. Looks very interesting! I have always thought that living in Paris post WWII (or even the time pre-WWII) would have been divine. Of course if I had had that pleasure, I would either be very old right now--or dead. But I do love seeing photos from that time period. My 2011 kitchen calendar is all Robert Doisneau from that time period. xxBliss

  2. I feel that way about Wiemar Berlin or Paris in the 1960's (oh, to run around with those cool Situationist guys). But then, yes, we'd miss the good stuff here and now. Your calendar sounds delightful. Love that classic Doisneau smooch!

  3. I loved Patti's book Just Kids ... you must live in alameda. Wonder if you ever ran into my friend mary and her son dolan, who is a year or two older than your son ...

  4. Kristi, yes! I knew when I was tearing up just from the Introduction that that book was going to blow me away. And it did.

    And we do live in Alameda. Small world!

  5. (But I have not run into your friend, that I can recall.)


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