Multimedia Presentation of
by David Snider
and text by Peter Turnley
the Photo Gallery
Affair of the Heart
by Peter Turnley
I arrived in Paris twenty-five years ago, at the age of nineteen,
the city I encountered sang to my senses. My heart and mind were
immediately stimulated by its light, vibrancy, and texture. The
French language entered my ears like music, and suddenly communication
seemed not merely functional but a celebration of feelings. I quickly
grasped that in order to understand Parisians I would have to speak
French well; otherwise, I would never be able to get to know the
beautiful, mysterious women I was seeing everywhere I looked.
French requires humility. During my first week in Paris, I committed
my first major gaffe. I had been walking past a very Brassaï-like
proletarian café every day, and I longed to drop in and mingle
with the hefty, bloody-aproned butchers who frequented the place.
One day I mustered enough courage. Before entering, I repeated at
least five times, "Monsieur, je voudrais une bière"
("Sir, Id like a beer"). Confident I had it down,
I strolled in, planted myself at the center of the zinc bar, and
blurted out, "Monsieur, je mappelle bière"
("Sir, my name is beer"). I didnt understand the
butchers howling laughter until the bartender looked at me
calmly and said, "So, Mr. Beer, what would you like?"
Ive laid in bed many a night wishing Id been so smooth
as to respond, "Un café crème, sil vous
was immediately captivated by the dynamic energy of my new city.
During the mid-1970s and early 80s philosophical and ideological
debate was a fundamental and active part of the Paris scene. French
political life encompassed a plurality of strong beliefs, with the
electorate split down the middle between the left and the right.
There were frequent labor strikes, numerous student demonstrations,
and much political agitation. It was the height of the Cold War,
and given the centrality of Paris to Europe, just being there made
me feel in close contact with world affairs. I remember vividly
the mass protest marches in Paris when the Russians entered Poland
in 1981. All of this was a strong stimulus for my young spirit.
had first picked up a camera at the age of seventeen, and photography
immediately opened up my world. From the beginning, it was a way
to show others what I cared about and a wonderful pretext for me
to enter new worlds. While I was stuck in the hospital with a knee
injury from high school football, my parents gave me a book by the
French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work helped me to
discover glory among the common moments of daily existence. The
legendary lives of so many photographers for whom Paris had been
a central theme fascinated me, and I was especially inspired by
the rich visual traditions of Atget, Brassaï, Izis, and Kertész.
spend evenings in the basement of our house in Indiana, printing
my latest photos and dreaming about how Robert Capa had made his
famous Spanish Civil War photo when he was just twenty-one. I knew
he had invented himself as a photojournalist in Paris. In The Family
of Man, the book that became my bible of photography, I discovered
Robert Doisneau and Edouard Boubat, both of whom would later become
not only important sources of inspiration but also members of my
fact, one of my first personal encounters with the great photography
of France came when I called on Boubat. In 1973 the American magazine
35mm Photography devoted twenty pages to a year-long photo-essay
that my twin brother, David, and I had made about life on McClellan
Street in the inner city of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
the same issue there was a portfolio of Boubats pictures.
Two years later I arrived at his Paris apartment with the magazine
in hand. That first meeting was the beginning of a friendship that
would grow for the next twenty-four years. Edouards humanity,
humility, and love of life had a contagious effect upon me and everyone
else he encountered. For the better part of ten years, until his
death in 1999, we would meet at least once a week for an afternoon
glass of rouge and warm conversation at the old wine bar La Tartine,
on the rue de Rivoli. Boubats spirit touched me in profound
and inspiring ways, as did his photography. His work always highlighted
the beautiful and the good, while his life always demonstrated the
courage to confront difficulty with grace.
day during my early years in Paris, I was in the Luxembourg Gardens
when a man walked by and photographed me sitting on a bench with
a girlfriend. I ran after him, curious to get a better look at the
beat-up Leica he was carrying. He turned out to be the great Czech
photographer Josef Koudelka, who had just arrived in Paris with
his epic body of work on Eastern European Gypsies. I was deeply
moved by his images, and his lifestyle taught me to appreciate the
spirit of a nomadic existence.
my first nine years in Paris, the life of this city was my only
photographic preoccupation. I walked the streets tirelessly. One
Sunday morning I left my garret apartment on the Ile de la Cité,
and while crossing the bridge to the Ile Saint-Louis I noticed an
old man moving along the sidewalk, discreetly holding a small Leica
camera. I recognized that he was André Kertész, the
magnificent Hungarian photographer and quintessential cosmopolitan,
who had spent almost half his life photographing Paris and the other
half, New York. We had previously met at his Manhattan apartment
next to Washington Square, and he recognized me when I called out
to him. After I told him about my garret with its view of Notre-Dame
he wanted to take a look. Once on my balcony, he studied the cathedral
and then turned to tell me that the light was not interesting and
asked if I understood the importance of light. Until that moment,
I had often been struck by the beauty of light, but after this I
learned to contemplate it and allow it to make my life richer.
my first three years in Paris, I worked as a printer at Picto, the
celebrated lab where Cartier-Bressons pictures are printed.
Simultaneously, I continued graduate studies in international relations
at the Institut dEtudes Politiques. Each morning at the lab
I was surrounded by printers who devoted their lives to communication
through black-and-white photographs. I immersed myself in images
by many of the worlds greatest photographers, including Lartigue,
Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka, and many of the Magnum photographers.
Each afternoon at "Sciences Po," which trains most of
Frances political leaders and much of its ruling class, I
was exposed to the elite world of French academics and the haute
after receiving my diploma, when my professional future was still
uncertain, I met Robert Doisneau and showed him a set of my Paris
images. This encounter had a profound impact on my life, for he
asked if I would be interested in helping him print his pictures
and offered to introduce me to the director of Rapho, his photo
agency. I embraced both opportunities and soon found Doisneau to
be even warmer as a person than as a photographer and an inspiration
in all ways. Very frequently I would take the metro to his home
in the working-class suburb of Montrouge, where I would spend the
day printing his human and tender photographs of Paris.
never forget seeing Doisneau cover for his aging concierge each
morning by taking out the buildings garbage. The concierge
had once been his assistant, and he risked losing his ground-floor
apartment if the other tenants realized that he was incapable of
carrying out his duties. In addition to his incredible generosity,
Doisneau taught me the power of hard work, patience, and meticulous
about the same time, Rapho began to offer me regular assignments
for major international publications, including the New York Times,
Time, Newsweek, and many French magazines. I quickly learned to
satisfy the needs of these publications while also following my
own journalistic instincts and passions. In 1984 Newsweek sent me
to India to cover Indira Gandhis funeral and the ensuing sectarian
violence. This first foreign assignment changed my life. I developed
an insatiable desire to travel and to document people whose plights
deserve the worlds attention.
has been my way of life for many years now. As a contract photographer
for Newsweek during the last seventeen years, Ive worked in
more than eighty-five countries, speeding to almost every war, revolution,
natural disaster, famine, and genocidal conflict. Trying to communicate
the human dimension of world events has exposed my sense of inner
peace to countless horrors. The one constant in this often wrenching
and frenetic existence has been that I always return to Paris, and
the city is always the key to my recovery. The elegance and warmth
of the Parisian art de vivre has always offered a soft landing from
painful experiences my heart might prefer to reject.
lived most of the past two decades far from my immediate family,
Ive found a sense of family spirit at many of my Parisian
haunts. In particular, Ive been able to count on the warm
and human ambience of the Brasserie de lIsle Saint-Louis.
This restaurant, and life in several Paris cafés, is the
subject of many of the photographs that follow.
of the people who have contributed to the life of this city werent
born here, and so the "Parisians" of my title encompasses
anyone living in Paris. I havent attempted to present an encyclopedic
view of the city, nor have I tried to explain my photographs with
words. Rather, I want to share a mosaic of images that express what
I feel and cherish about this extraordinary place and its people.
Though constantly changing, Paris always moves my heart.
the Photo Gallery