Two postcard views (above and below) of booksellers on the wharf near Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France ca 1918/1920
We often think that a photographer gets his or her perfect picture with one shot but what is more likely is that numerous photos of the same scene are taken before that perfect image is caught. These two postcards by the French photographer Pierre Yves Petit, better known as Yvon, are just part of an unknown number of shots taken probably over a period of several days. Robert Stevens includes both the top version and another slightly different version in his book Yvon’s Paris, published by W.W. Norton, 2010. The top view is the most famous of the two shown here. I had not seen the bottom version before finding this postcard that was included in with a group of others by Yvon. It is slightly different--fewer people, the bookseller engaged in conversation with another man, less fog, not as many paintings, the paintings leaning against the stall are uncovered--than either of the others.
The scene was photographed just shortly after the end of World War I and shows the vendor stalls near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Yvon preferred to take pictures in the early morning or evening when the shadows and fog made the images more interesting to him and allowed him to produce some very ethereal looking pictures. The old man did not want to sit in the cold and have his photo taken but it is said that Yvon paid him 5 francs to do so. It was not said how many days or attempts it may have taken to get the most famous image or if Yvon had to pay the man each day he took pictures of him. To me, one of the beauties of both pictures is that they do not look posed but instead look like candid photos or glimpses of everyday life.
Labeled as booksellers on the wharf it looks like this man is mostly selling paintings. Today there are still vendors along this area and many of them do sell used books, postcards, paintings, and other used items. These are the same type of stalls or lock boxes that appeared on the postcard of Montpellier L’Esplanade shared in an earlier postcard Thursday. Most of the items would be locked up in the box overnight and the box opened the next morning when the seller arrived and set up his shop. He would then bring new items or the more valuable items with him to add to the collection of wares for sale.
Both cards are unused and have almost identical information printed on the reverse. The top card is numbered 1. H. 538 “PARIS … En Flanant Les bouquinistes du quai de la Tournelle.” The second card bears the same title but has the number 1. B 538. Both have divided backs for the address and message and Yvon’s own company in Paris published them. The bottom card has a decorative rippled edge while the top has a plain border and straight cut edge.
The photo above was taken in 2012 and shows the wharf near where the postcard pictures were taken. Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the stalls or vendors though I walked past them several times and even looked at the things they were selling. Although it cannot be seen in this picture, Notre Dame Cathedral is located just in back of the cherry trees at the left side of the photo. The tour boat filled with people is heading toward the bridge that is covered with padlocks, sometimes called the “lock bridge.”
For more examples of Yvon’s photographs see the book Yvon’s Paris by Robert Stevens mentioned above.