I arrived one hot afternoon and a couple of evenings later it was my birthday.
To entertain and attract the crowds on the 14th of July in France, businesses know that one of the most efficient thing is to stage little plays, hire singing and dancing acts or organise concerts to accompany the traditional fireworks held to commemorate Bastille Day. This year, we decided to celebrate in a small outdoor restaurant on the edge of the port’s centre. The last time we were there, the flamboyant owner had launched into a rapid-fire overview of the evening’s production and his eclectic list of happenings made us curious. We booked. Young tango dancers, a middle-aged ballet dancer in a swan costume and a tiara followed by a transvestite in a tutu had us all cheering loudly. It was performed with such disarming gusto by the cast that you couldn’t help finding it fresh and enlivening. The characters were full of élan and their theatrical ambitions clearly celebrated by the customers who were clapping enthusiastically. Instead of being cliché it was incredibly comical and unexpected. It was, however, a moment made even more thrilling by the sight of Peter Beard. In every generation, there are at least a couple of artists who inspire respect and worship from their contemporaries. He is one of them. I’ve been familiar with his work for a good ten years now and in this time have managed to acquire a selection of his books, a limited edition signed poster and of course the essential “Scrapbooks from Africa”. He’s a great original, inventing imagery/collages that look to the natural animal world first and foremost. The brutality of several of his elephant photographs often disorientate and can seem at odds with the intriguing surface texture (pasted found imagery, handwriting, blood etc) while at the same time creating a dynamic pictorial space. The combination is powerful and exciting. But I’m getting sidetracked. I won’t make the mistake of analysing his work in this post in detail. I’m sure that most of my readers are familiar with his images and don’t need me to try and penetrate his mind. What I wanted to say is that I met him, exchanged a few words, he took a picture of me and my sister, told us our names would make a good movie title (Isa & Jaja) and disappeared into the night to join his wife on the dance floor!
I’ve had an amazing birthday, I thought to myself.
You can also read a post I wrote about the Peter Beard Pirelli Calendar here.