Alain Weill was curator of the Poster and Advertising Museum and also head of the Poster Festival in Chaumont.
An expert in fine art and great collector, he organizes auction sales and exhibitions in France and abroad. He is the author of an encyclopedia and has written many books about poster and graphic arts. He shared with Simon the essence of the Paris nightlife.
Jacqueline Germé worked in fashion. She was attachée de création then head of the Design Studio at Paco Rabanne. After that she set up her own business as a Fashion pilot, special consultant and personal shopper at the Bon Marché department store. She also published several books, among which are Alain Weill Sa garde-robe in 1989, L’Esthétique des situations en 2012, Simon Bocanegra Portrait et médaillon in 2014.Contact
Bastien de Almeida is an expert in vintage clothes and he is fond of the great Hollywood era. In his concept store in the Batignolles district, one could find clothes and accessories as well as books about movie and magazines of the time. As a great collector, in 2009 he bought the photographic work of Simon Bocanegra and owns the rights.
Baptiste Magis, a graduate of the National Superior School of Decorative Arts (ENSAD) is an interior decorator, a computer graphic and cinema set designer.
He met Simon Bocanegra thanks to Christine Mingo, who is Simon’s muse. Fond of his images, he encouraged him and stood by him in his work to create his first website with a view to publishing a book.
Charles Serruya is an artist with multiple talents. He is a photographer, a sculptor as well as a film maker. In his photographic work, he has explored the outlines of shadows in black and white and then in color. In his sculptures in wire or gold, the shadow develops another facet of his labyrinthic work. His movies convey, in a very personal fashion, his poetic identity.
A long-time friend, he had the privilege of having an artistic exchange with Simon Bocanegra.
Silver Sponsor Member
Gold Sponsor Member
Patron of The Arts
- Christine Bonnefond
- Ouamée Babeanu
- Christine Mingo
- David Daim
- Juliette Hoffenberg
- Agni Chronopoulos
- Jacqueline Germé
- Charles Serruya
- Baptiste Magis
- Frédéric Samama
- Gilles Ebersolt
- Alain Weill
- Sébastien de Almeida
- François Bellet
- Eric Schmitt
- Henri Seydoux
This portfolio is a representative selection of the different facets of Simon Bocanegra’s universe (The nightlife in Paris, London, New York, transsexuals, fashion, dandies, backstages, old stylish people, the Underground, celebrities and people in the street).
All these pictures were photographed with a Nikon camera, using 35 mm Kodachrome film and 24 X 36 mm color slides. Neither reframed nor touched up, these photographs were shot from life, always in situ. One can see the complete agreement of the models in their eyes. There is no stolen image in his work, even when it is a furtive exchange with strange faces.
The technique used, characteristic of his work, is « Open flash », which consists in having a long shutter exposure time using a flash. The result of this shooting is always a surprise because of the chance, fuzzy effect taken into account and of intended shadows. During the exposure time, the photographer or the model might slightly move, therefore, sometimes in some images one can notice a double exposure effect which creates a halation around the outlined figures.
- 1949 : Born in Lyons, in France. An abandoned child, he spents his childhood in an orphanage.
- 1964 – 1968 : Attends a top-level sports school for four years to become a gymnastics teacher. Joins a small group which emerged from the FHAR (Homosexual Front of Revolutionary Action). Enters a friendship with Hélène Hazéra and Michel Cressole. The latter will advice him in his readings.
- 1968 : Moves to USA with a two month visa and works as a stripteaser with a partner in a show called « Love Act », its purpose being to mime love.
- 1969 : Makes his first photographs in Hawaii with a Pentax camera. Then photographs all his partners, his meetings as well as the audience. Becomes familiar with the Underground, artists’ dressing rooms, backstages.
- 1978 : The Palace in Paris opens when he returns from New York. Immediately appreciated by the owner Fabrice Emaer and also recognized at the entrance by the hostess and physiognomist Paquita Paquin, he becomes one of the appointed photographers of the place. From then on, a permanent guest of all Parisian evening parties, he meets and photographs many celebrities with his Nikon camera.
- 1982 : Covers Divine’s trip through USA. At the airport, he has his suitcase stolen. It contained all the color slides of his reporting.
- 1984 – 1987 : Moves to New York in the Jane West Hotel. This is the great period of the Studio 54 of which he became a regular.
- Photographs jewels of jeweler Jacques Gastaldi, the designer of the Ylang-Ylang brand.
- Works with artist Charles Serruya on the theme of shadow theater.
- Enters a friendship with Jean-Paul Beaujard who will become one of his patrons.
- Enters a relationship with Judy Taylor. They go to New Orleans to live their romance.
- Films a video with James Chance playing the saxophone in a great standard, « The Foolish Things » with glamorous Judy Taylor in the background.
- 1988 : The luxurious magazine L’un des sens commissions him to make Alain Weill’s portrait to illustrate his article about Cuban cigars.
- 1989 : Is invited to New York by Paul Steinitz, one of the owners of the avant-garde Prisunic Gallery to show photographs of Parisian figures. In New York, he will meet transsexuals on the sidewalk of 14th Street West. They become familiar to him. He takes snapshots of them and displays their portraits in his exhibition. The 31 photographs are on show inside illuminated boxes. This earns him praise in an article published in the New York Times.
- 1990 : Moves to 52 rue René Boulanger near Place de la République in Paris. This address puts an end to many years of freewheeling.
- 1991 – 1992 : Enters a friendship with writer Claude Louis-Combet with whom he shares his passion for literature.
- Photographs in backstage the vintage fashion show of Didier Ludot in the front yard of the National Library.
- 1992 – 1993 : The night life moves to London. Regularly attends the Kinky Gerlinky fabulous evening parties, where Leigh Bowery makes his stylistic performances on the dancefloor.
- 1995 : On September 26th, publishes the portrait of his friend Michel Cressole to illustrate an article of the Libération newspaper about the death of the journalist.
- 1996 : Travels to Venice, to Spain and stays in Tel Aviv, invited over by Paul and Christine Steinitz.
- 2000 : Exhibition « Portraits de nuit » (Nocturnal portraits) at Serge Aboukrat’s Gallery, Place of Furstenberg in Paris.
- Shoots the Arnys catalog which is offered with Monsieur magazine.
- 2003 : Takes part in a collective exhibition at the Man Ray restaurant in Paris, organized by his muse Christine Mingo on the theme « A detail from la constellation de la grimace ».
- 2004 – 2005 : His friend Edouard Baer gives him a film camera with which he shoots a documentary about Quentin Crisp, broadcast by the Arte channel. In Portugal, he shoots a short entitled « La mort ne m’aura pas vivant » (Death won’t catch me alive) with a surrealistic tandem.
- 2011 : Decides to end his own life, at home.
That image is one of a man who led an adventurous and daring life with natural elegance and integrity in a merciless, violent, fiery world. He was complex, obscure and radiant. He was just as keen on poetry and philosophy as on associating with the most varied and turbulent circles. He was torn between two extremes. One was the uproar of life, the fascinating encounters which punctuate the night owl’s wanderings, the visions and ecstasies of the flesh and drugs. The other one was that of solitude, silence, enrichment through the reading of great literary works and familiarity with art and music. The ambiguous charm of his presence derived essentially from that duality of tastes and attractions. He excelled in all that mattered the most for him: his connections with the night life of the capitals and his withdrawal through reading. One could see in him all the stages of his experience rooted in a sensuality and a sometimes strange, disquieting, multi-faceted marginality – but his experience was also anchored in a demanding and refined culture. That culture was the source of all the wealth, subtlety and accuracy of his expression, in conversation as well as in his letters. Simon was a first-rate self-educated man.
Simon had two opposite sides which mingled together and made him a wonderful person. He seemed to wander around life and the world like a dancer, a juggler, an acrobat and a tightrope walker whose body had the gait, the sweeping and rhythmical gestures of one who could associate effortlessly a swift instinct and acute perceptiveness. He was both animal and angel – a superior animal and a dark angel –, and that is what preserved that kind of impure and dark purity which glowed deep inside his ambiguity, his ambivalence and his multi-faceted diversity.
Simon had lived intensely. He had traveled a lot. His activity as a press photographer had led him to meet many famous and original, sometimes remarkable figures, in the most diverse spheres. Thus he had acquired an insight into the world and a feeling for relating to people. This gave him unusual open-mindedness, a wealth of knowledge and strong intuitions. He loved life. He loved people. He had a fundamentally loving soul, always in alert, moved by desire. An attentive friend, he was tactful and courteous. And he was a deeply generous and selfless man. He would give. When he took, it would only be to give more and in the end he would not keep anything. He did not want to burden himself with any material belongings. He had turned his back on wealth and comfort. He was happy with very little, which allowed him to keep his freedom of mind.
However, over the last three years, something had changed in him. He had gotten rid of all manner of things, even of the books that his humble abode was full of. He no longer had any expectations in life. He had shut himself away, alone in a solitude haunted nearly only by the prospect of death. He was coming undone. He was inexorably withdrawing from the world. He was getting ready to pass away in dignity, clear-headed, clear-minded, serene. Nothing could prevent him from saying his farewells to the world. This is where he left us. We followed him till the end, and that is where we stand in remembrance and love.
Claude Louis-Combet (writer)
Translation Luc Dambert.