I returned one week ago today from spending a week in Baden, Austria, with photographic book publishers Lois and Silvia Lammerhuber and the working staff at Edition Lammerhuber, building my book of Paris pictures. The title: WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD: PARIS The Eye of the Flaneur will be released in late spring. It is a 31-year retrospective of photographs I have made during various trips to Paris, some on assignment for National Geographic magazine and many I made on visits of my own. As have so many citizens of the world, I fell in love with the City of Light on my first visit in 1986 when I convinced National Geographic’s Traveler magazine to let me do an essay entitled “The Sidewalks of Paris.” That was the beginning of a long love affair that I know will continue through the years I have remaining.
I flew to Vienna with some trepidation, thinking, how can we possibly do all the thinking, the editing, sequencing, layout, etc…in the space of one week which was the time Lois Lammerhuber allotted? Before arriving I offered to stay longer if necessary but he assured me that we would be able to build our book in that amount of time. And we did. Working intensely but elbow to elbow in a joint effort. To me making our color proofs on an Epson printer was a wonderful experience. Many had to be done multiple times to get them where I wanted them to be. All of my previous six books were a bit of a crap game, so to speak, regarding how the final reproduction would be. In terms of color reproduction I believe this book will be the best that I’ve been able to have in representing my vision.
The book will be published in French, English, and German. Lois Lammerhuber is an accomplished photographer himself and has devoted his publishing company to producing the finest photography books he can. He wants the books to reflect what the photographer wants and is a sensitive and cooperative partner in this pursuit. My colleagues Pascal Maitre and Gerd Ludwig have both published their fine work with Edition Lammerhuber. Gerd has done two books with Lammerhuber as has Pascal.
I consider Paris to be the finest walking around city I’ve been privileged to know. And I realized some time ago that the way I’ve almost always worked has been in the manner of a flaneur. In the words of Edmund Morris, author of “The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris,” I have been an“aimless stroller who loses himself in the crowd, who has no destination and goes where ever caprice or curiosity directs his or her footsteps.” I write at greater length about this in my 7,000 words introduction to the book during which I talk about certain pictures, how they occurred and sometimes why. There are only two, I believe, out of I think 123, that did not occur more or less serendipitously, but were made because I wanted to photograph a certain person and asked to meet them somewhere to do so.
This will not be the typical book about Paris with all the iconic sights and views, but a book of images I have made when in Paris and there is a difference. I wish I knew Paris more intimately than I do. I know fairly well certain streets, some neighborhoods, but I always leave Paris thinking, I should have gone there…I should have gone here…I should have seen more or seen it better. I’m sure that feeling will never leave me. As a true flaneur, I have always relished in the joy of simply wandering the streets, the cafes and bistros, experiencing the pleasure of strolling through an endless series of one-act plays amidst beautiful sets and an ever- changing cast of characters. Just allowing myself to be receptive to what ever my walks might offer. I go looking for nothing in specific but everything in general. I do wish I could speak and understand French fluently; I sometime think my pictures would be perhaps better if I did.
Now I wait for spring to come and bring to me my book. I have always thought of a book as being the still photographer’s finest outlet. A fine exhibit in a respected gallery or museum is wonderful; to see one’s vision brought to life in fine prints is truly special. But most exhibits come down in thirty days. A book is forever. Of course, as a friend of mine says, “The best thing about a book is that it’s going to be around for ever. And the worst thing about a book is that it’s going to be around for ever.” As I’ve often told young workshop students who seemed perhaps prematurely primed to do a book of their work, I tell them to remember that a book can break one’s heart. If that book you so desire doesn’t meet your hopes and expectations, if the reproduction is bad, the paper inferior, what ever flaws it has will haunt you forever. And it is over. A book is a one-time thing. You want it to be the best it can be because if it isn’t, nobody’s going to come along and do it again for you but do it better. That doesn’t mean it has to be perfect, that’s hard to get. I’ve done six previous books and all have their flaws. None is a perfect book but I’ve been lucky enough to say I’m proud of them all. And I think this next book done with the Lammerhubers who truly love books, will be my best. Along with warmer weather and the budding out of the trees, I’ll be looking for my book come spring.