Yikes! It’s from 1974. Seems almost as old as this photo at the left of the Eiffel Tower under construction.
I went to France for a year as a student two years after graduating from the University of Maine with a degree in French. I needed to improve my ability to speak the language.
Loaded down with a year’s worth of clothing for every season, American gifts for my hippy-hosts – popcorn, which was quite unknown there at the time – I was ready.
My Pentax SLR camera slung over my shoulder and a diary in my pocket, Air Canada whisked me off from Fredericton, New Brunswick.
I settled into the 6th floor garret commune-apartment in a delapidated 1620s Marais tenement. (The Marais was not the chic place then that it is now.) Between my grueling classes at the Sorbonne and days making deliveries for a furniture store where I worked as an American anathema – an illegal alien, I came to know every nook and cranny of the ancient streets of Paris, and I traveled outside the city to all the stunning chateaux. (Fontainebleau remains my favorite.)
France was my oyster, and I discovered a lot of pearls: Carnac, Deauville, St. Malo, Honfleur, Nice, Perpignan, Castelnou, Carcassonne, Mulhouse, Colombey-les-Deux-Églises - I traveled to all of them by “thumb” … I went everywhere, man. And the pictures! Wow!
Coffee with Paco Rabanne at Les Deux Magots (whose little flask was not a new cologne but my first sniff of poppers), book signings with controversial author Renaud Camus, photography outings with Michel Guillot, a Perpignan disco with author and now Le Monde editor Jean-Noel Pancrazi, and the friendship of Dr. Michel Canesi; today I feel that Woody Allen overlooked me for my cameo in his movie Midnight in Paris. Somehow this farm boy from Maine, me … I fell in with an “in” crowd. But I missed out on Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.
(My tip to Americans visiting France: A few leisurely hours in a French cafe may provide you the opportunity to meet some interesting French friends. With the purchase of a coffee or two, the table is yours for almost forever.)
Twelve months later, Air Canada on strike, Air France became my “carrier of choice”, and I returned to Houlton, Maine via flights to Montreal and Fredericton.
I was too young (and poor) to realize that I should have left my clothes behind! But in those days, passengers needed to be schlepping a rhinoceros in their checked luggage before they were expected to cough up budget-busting excess baggage fees.
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day,”
Travel photography can be addictive. Those dozens of rolls of Kodak film resulted in even more Kodak Carousels to clutter my closets, and with which to torture my students and friends!
But everybody needed, yes wanted to know about everything I did and saw in Paris (didn’t they?). Here is Paris at sunrise; here is Paris at noon; here is Paris at sundown. Here is David eating an omelet, and here is David drinking (another) glass of wine, and here is David standing by Rodin’s “Thinker” – 14 different, remarkable views!
I settled back into life in America and assembled my one-camera-show. Only the Warner Brothers’ vaults in Hollywood had more film in storage than I did.
And I invited everybody that I knew to my “Mrs. Bucket” style (Keeping Up Appearances), festive French wine and cheese parties.
Then, the New York Times ran a photo of me taken during one of my stellar slideshow presentations. That photo, seen by tens of thousands of Times readers did, unfortunately, nothing for my career. I buried my ragged edged copy of that world famous photograph in my now bulging trunk.
And from within my cloud of dust, this photo emerged from its flaky cardboard-box home.
If you are a “have-camera-will-travel tourist”, the truth in this next photo may be more than you can take. Reality is difficult for some of us to accept when our personal photography experiences (and ego) go unappreciated by our closest friends.
But what do they know?