Friday, October 07, 2005

Shakespeare & Company

Had a couple of marvelous interviews in the last few days. Did the boss of legendary Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Company, the other day. I say boss, but as you'll see from this picture, she's maybe not in the traditional mould...

I can tell you that she's as delightful to talk to as she is to look at, a real gem with an excellent head on her shoulders.

The Shakespeare & Company bookshop was run for about 50 years by her father, Parisian icon George Whitman, and stepping into his shoes wasn't the easiest thing Sylvia's ever done, never mind getting to know her father again, through the strangest of circumstances, after many years of estrangement.

It's a fascinating story, told by Sylvia with lots of love and anecdotes and makes great reading. I'll be putting the interview up on as soon as I've finished editing it and have got Sylvia's go-ahead. Please do read it when it comes out - I think it's quite a significant interview.

Interestingly, she mentioned that she'd like to widen Shakespeare & Company's artistic remit, and mentioned that it would be nice to have photo exhibitions from time to time, for example. They already run a popular and unique literary festival here in Paris, but she is keen to develop the book shop into more of a cultural centre with different artistic disciplines represented.

Guess which Parisian fanatic jumped out of his seat when she said she was interested in photography...

Did you guess? No? Oh well... ME!!!

So I'm currently bombarding her with ideas for running a weekly 'Photography Evening' at the book shop, upstairs in the legendary library, of course, where the poetry readings normally take place.

My idea is to start off the evening by giving a short presentation on an aspect of taking photos in Paris - it could be technique, or 'seeing' or whatever. Then we would have one or two guest photographers showing and talking about their work, followed by an open forum where anyone can show their photos and get a positive critique.

I'd even like to have a competition each week, voted for by the audience, and maybe the prize could be a free place on one of my Parisian Photography Masterclasses - who knows?!

So there are my crazy plans for the day - it's amazing how people can inspire you if you just open your ears and listen. My mouth tends to be open far too much and my ears not enough, but if you let other people talk, not only do you stop an enormous amount of crap from entering the atmosphere, which is in itself admirable and environmentally friendly, you also discover what other people are all about, in all their weakness and glory.

And that's not bad. Thanks Sylvia, thanks Paris, and thank you!


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