Monday, February 25, 2008

Marc Riviere

 

Browsing for poetry in the bookshop area of the Marché Dauphine at Saint Ouen today, I chanced upon a small shop which was just being opened up by its owner. He rolled up the metal shutters, then stepped inside and placed a record on a small portable player in the corner, a track by the Doors. Unlike most of the shops I had visited, this shop was dauntingly empty, selling an ecletic mixture of art, books and records. As I hung back outside, the owner gestured me to enter and look around, which I did.

His stock was an interesting mix that included a dadaist text written by Francis Picabia and small books detailing Antonin Artaud's experimentation with peyote in Mexico. Didn't Henri Michaux write a book along similar lines? I asked. Yes, said the bookseller, but he had a doctor on hand in case of problems.

There was also a book by Maurice Lemaître from the 1950s which had a record inside. The owner of the shop offered to play it on his small record player. When he had done so, a sonorous voice issued forth into the glass and iron arcade of the market: overstressed words something like the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters, a voice repeating words that rhymed: Arnaque, Lac...

Maurice Lemaître was a member of the Lettrist movement in the 1950s, a movement that remains very little known to the English-speaking world, mainly because the works remain almost totally untranslated. The lettrist's idea of poetry was that it should be "purely formal, devoid of all semantic content". Which I take to mean it should be rather difficult to understand as language, more like a kind of music.

As I left the shop I noticed a black and white poster of a woman in a café holding two tea cups over her eyes like goggles. Her shirt was pulled open to reveal her breasts which, in some way, seemed to stand in for her eyes. I rather liked this cheeky photograph and I asked if I could buy a copy. The man smiled: that's my work he said. I am Marc Riviere.

Marc produced a book of his black and white photographs called "Up and Down" with publisher Ipso Facto in 1999. He would approach girls on the streets of Paris and ask them if he could photograph their breasts. He was surprisingly successful, gathering enough candid photographs to fill a book. The results are rather charming, full of a lively intimacy and humanity of a kind which is often absent from nude photography. You can see a number of photographs from the book here.

7 comments:

Dick said...

I'm trying to re-locate both shop & experiences within to London & failing. Only in Paris...

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thanks for you comment Dick. Sorry to contradict you but Marc did tell me that shortly after the publication of his book, he was commissioned by The Sun to produce similar photographs on the streets of London.

If I understood correctly, The Sun produced a double spread of his work every day for two weeks. So maybe some aspects of French culture are exportable...

I do wonder though if his London nudes would have had quite the same 'je ne sais pas quoi' as his Parisian nudes.

As for the Lettrism however, that's another matter...

Ms Baroque said...

We-ell... interesting that it was the Sun. You're right - the pictures are charming - but isn't it still about cute girls getting their tits out? None of those pictured departed in any way from what a young guy would find sexy: pert, biggish, braless, on young women, etc. If someone came and asked me that (which they wouldn't) I'd have some pretty serious unhooking of my DDs to do.

So, hmm.

Jonathan Wonham said...

Hello Ms Baroque. So you would be game!? I wouldn't undress for the camera for love nor money...

Fortunately, beauty doesn't end with youth, it's just that it is no longer the kind of beauty that (generally) titillates the mass consumer market.

Lucy said...

Not just the breasts, but generally a charming post. The girls are of course pretty, young, built just right, it would be interesting to see older, less perfect, women's bodies... but they look secure, upbeat, in control. Youth is lovely sometimes, we can enjoy it even when it isn't ours anymore!

Matthew said...

I was visiting Les Puces today as a tourist. But I had been given a photography assignment to photograph someone holding something they were proud of. By chance I was at stall #236 and asked the owner if I could photograph him holding something he was proud of.

The owner was Marc Riviere, and I am now the proud owner of a photograph of him holding this book.

Jonathan Wonham said...

That's a nice story Matthew. Thanks for commenting. Good luck with your photography.