About the relationship between Simenon and his photographic portraits
SIMENON SIMENON. IL ROMANZIERE, LE FOTO E LA PIPA…
Sulla relazione tra Simenon e i suoi ritratti fotografici
SIMENON SIMENON. LE ROMANCIER, LES PHOTOS ET LA PIPE…
A propos des rapports entre Simenon et ses portraits photographiques
There are so many. Simenon's photographic pictures are a kind of step-by-step documentation throughout his life, his ascent towards popularity, his moves and numerous trips.
The novelist was very attentive to communication, especially to communication of everything that concerned him, and photography was the most immediate mean, the most expressive and complete to pass a message. Let's not forget that Simenon insisted that Fayard, for the first Maigret collection, should use photographic covers, which was totally new at that time. Thus photography seems to have been held in major consideration by the writer.
When Simenon was in America, he wrote a letter to Frédéric Dard and he complained: "I have always had a horror for photos." It's difficult to give credit to these words, when we consider that almost every moment of the novelist's private and public life is photographically documented.
Do you want a photo of "young Sim" with his typewriter? Here is one, posing, smiling, with his pipe in his mouth. Do you want one when the novelist is in his thirties or his forties? No problem, here is another one with his pipe in his mouth or in his hand. Or do you want one when he is just elderly or already old, still at his desk with the pipes, the pencils, the yellow envelopes...? Here are other ones.
Or do you want him in the intimacy, playing with his first son Marc? There is also one. Or another one when he is revelling with Josephine Baker? No problem, here is one where he is sitting between her and his wife Tigy. And also Simenon with Tigy and his chambermaid on a boat over the canals of France and elsewhere? At your disposal whenever you want.
Would you see the novelist on backstage with Jean Gabin? A whole set of shots. Or you could choose among a series with Fellini at the Cannes festival. There are also many photos of Simenon with his second wife Denyse; especially in America, in family pictures at Lakeville with Johnny and Marie-Jo.
And Simenon himself. As a writer at his creativity table. As a young Parisian dandy. As a gentleman farmer in La Richardière or Fontenay-le-Comte. As a cow-boy with a checked shirt, hat and boots, in Arizona. With a colonial helmet and a Saharan jacket during his travels in the heart of Africa. Or at the Quai des Orfèvres, outside, inside, in the archive room, at Police-Secours, in the Chief Inspector's office. And finally as an old man, in wheelchair, besides Teresa.
And we could go on almost indefinitely. Thus, for one who stated that he hated photos, it appears as a paradox. It seems indeed that when something important occurred, photographers knew it and were there ready to catch him in the most significant pose.
Yet the thing that really does have a certain effect is that in every photo we can see, Simenon has always a pipe with him. Whether straight in his mouth, or held in hand, or put near by, you can be sure that in the shot there is inevitably and always a pipe. In fact, apart from the rare photos of Simenon as a child, it's quite an impossible challenge to find a sole photographic portrait for which the pipe is not in the foreground, as a substitute of the writer. And we think this is not accidentally so. Was it so essential having the pipe with him? Would Simenon not feel like being Simenon without it? At least in photos...
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