The first time I saw Paris…
I didn’t get to Europe until I was 32 years old. I had wanted to go for a long time. I had been photographing for nine years and had never been sent there. Business was good, but it never brought me to Europe.
Finally, in 1963, I decided I had to go. I bought a 21-day excursion ticket. I stayed for four months.
I loved all of Europe, but Paris, Paris, Paris. I always came back there.
The first time I saw Paris I knew I had found my place to shoot. People ate at outside cafes, they embraced in the streets, every cliche I had ever seen went on right in front of me, and I loved it and shot all of it. The Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, and every trite often overshot image would unfold in front of me. I tried to make them my own, my particular “take” on it, sometimes successfully, often not.
I’ve since returned a number of times, and it never disappoints. You are dealing with people who are so sure their food, art, fashion, language, women, and everything else is the best in the world. And who’s to say no?
Many people are upset with the French, and Parisians in general, for their impatience with those who do not speak French well. I rather liked it because they were always themselves, they pandered to no one, and since I was one of the imbeciles who were not fluent in French, I was always left alone to work, not accepted, not rejected, but tolerated just enough and ignored just enough to be able to work.
Who could ask for anything more?
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