Paris : Stormy birthday party for Simone de Beauvoir!

simone-portrait.jpg

Simone de Beauvoir would have been a hundred year old in 2008, if she had lived that long. Her major contribution to non-fiction literature, “the second sex”, published in 1949, has nourished the feminist movements of the seventies, and is still a reference.

2eme-sexe-1.jpg

2eme-sexe-2_.jpg

This anniversary was celebrated by two interesting documentaries on public cultural French television channels (“la 5” and “Arte”), and by literary press.

mag-lit.jpg

In this harmonious appropriate praise concert, the false note came from “le Nouvel Obs'”, which is not exactly a tabloid.

nel-obsbeauvoir-nuejpg.jpg

What? Scandalous she may have been in her writings as well as in her life, but she was never known as a play mate. So rose the first protest choir : How shameful it is to dig out this nude picture of a dignified writer and put it on first page, just to sell more copies !

Then, of course, the original photo came out, which started a righter contest : the real indecency was to use Photoshop to model her figure according to modern taste.

nel-obs-shay.jpg

It seems that Simone de Beauvoir never asked for this picture to be taken, but was not really mad at Art Shay : he was a professional photographer, a friend of Simone’s american lover Nelson Algren, and she left the bathroom door opened.

I don’t know if it was appropriate to put this picture on a front page, but I think it was certainly not to modify it, for it’s a really good picture. For myself, I am glad that it came out. I think it makes her look really cool, just pushing up her hair looking in the mirror, feeling just comfortable to stand naked and not bothering to close the bathroom door. It reminds us that she was not only a solemn thinker, nor her life time companion Jean-Paul Sartre eternal “girl friday”: she had the unconventional way of life which matched exactly with the ideas expressed in her writings, and she never tried to hide it (which can’t be told of all male writers).

art-shay-simone1952.jpg

Shay’s beautiful portrait of Simone de Beauvoir in Chicago in 1952 is as accurate as the more conventional ones. To read his version of the facts, go to : http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/actualites/culture/20080115.OBS5331/photo_de_simone_de_beauvoir__art_shay_raconte.html

To get an idea of the passion it rose, go to : http://www.rue89.com/2008/01/07/le-nu-de-beauvoir-excite-la-blogosphere

We’ll never know what she would have thought about this. “Much ado about nothing”, maybe?

And by the way, did you read “the second sex”? If you prefer the english version, go to : http://www.amazon.com/Second-Sex-Simone-Beauvoir/dp/0679724516

second-sex.jpg

7 responses to “Paris : Stormy birthday party for Simone de Beauvoir!

  1. Help me out… Beyond lightening the photograph, I can not see the offending photoshopping.

    Am I to dazzled by a woman’s naked figure to discern the subtle changes? Are the non-lightening effects more obvious if both photos are lightened?

    Hell if I know.

    — SCAM

  2. Interesting shot of her … however, minor point, from a femme’s p.o.v. , one SELDOM, if at all, puts on high heels BEFORE getting washed/primed/dressed and poofed. It just don’t happen. Shoes go on LAST, especially HIGH HIGH ‘tettering’ heels as shown. Ergo, this is NOT a candid and/or unexpected and ‘accidental’ ‘insight’ shot. She was ‘hamming’ for the cam … no question.
    And yes, Second Sex was/is a TOME.

  3. Well, maybe it was just changing light and contrast, but many people thought that her thighs and knees had been retouched to look thine.
    For what I know about the situation (from Shay’s version) she had already taken her bath, and she was not home, so if she did’nt want to be bare foot, she had to put her shoes on. On the other hand, she had come in this apartment with Shay, knowing he was a photographer, and leaving the bathroom opened as she used to do, she could expect him to take a picture.

  4. For what I know about the situation (from Shay’s version) she had already taken her bath, and she was not home, so if she did’nt want to be bare foot, she had to put her shoes on. On the other hand, she had come in this apartment with Shay, knowing he was a photographer, and leaving the bathroom opened as she used to do, she could expect him to take a

  5. Nope. Ain’t buyin’.
    It’s a ‘set up’.

  6. I see no modification to her form toward a thinner “ideal”. There are changes in contrast and exposure, which does make the surface contours of the legs less visible, but I don’t think that was the intent.

    One could criticize the magazine’s alteration of the photographer’s artistic intent, but that argument is spelled out before you have it: commercial magazines will do whatever it takes to maximize the appeal of their covers to their target readership.

  7. Pingback: Outstanding Photos: The candid photo of Simone de Beauvoir « fragments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s