When I was a Photographer by Felix Nadar Translated by Eduard Cadava and Liana Teodoratou is a book published by MIT Press.
The author was a french photographer, novelist, intellectual although in this book what you will "read" are his own words.
This one a wonderful according to my point of view translation of Nadar's book: "Quand J'étais photographe."
I adore photography because every picture is a little big history.
A picture doesn't say anything the first second you take it, but after a minute or a day it starts to be part of your history and the history of your loved ones or a landscape or seascape you visited.
It's important to remember and this visual art gives us this precious gift.
I am a compulsive photographer so when I saw this book I fell immediately attracted by it.
Digital pictures revolutioned years ago under many aspects the "taking a picture" moment more "calm" meditative with the old common camera but at the same time digital cameras are keeping the process of taking pictures more "democratic" and accessible to everyone so that moments can be remembered massively.
With this book we descend at the beginning of the creation of photography.
Mr Nadar was born in 1820 probably in Paris.
Nadar wanted to become a reporter but later became an estimated writer and photographer and he was also known because of his passion for taking areal pictures thanks to a big baloon.
At that time it was more than clear that it was possible to use light for impressing something spectacularly interesting: it could have been possible to capture an instant and a touch of eternity for all men and the world thanks to a special instrument, fixing faces, places, giving a new sense to the world and leaving to the posterity a real trace of ourselves.
At that time a picture was a stratospheric experience, so unique that every place was taken in consideration with great surprise, enchantment and curiosity.
Nadar was very severe with his own work, as you will see and if not satisfied by his results he would have thrown away the proofs considered unacceptable.
I found beautiful the stories in his photographic studio, where you will see mr Nadar lived his own experiences.
He was a good expert of human souls. After all: how can you capture in a picture the soul of a man or a woman if you can't penetrate their mystery?
I think you will be delighted to read the differences that there are between a man or a woman's vanity, or the experience Nadar lived with a young guy one day.
But not only: Nadar's writing-style is beautiful. He speaks intellectually well of a certain topic, leaving you absorbed in the reading for then being back abruptly at the story that he started at first and immersing you in a fresh and intelligent dialogue often with a lot of interesting life-experiences, vivid, real and I am more than sure that you will fall in love for these stories so badly from the first line.
You will capture the sensation of freedom and distance from the common world and its problems while Nadar is flying in a balloon for taking pictures seeing wonderful fields colored like a big and natural quilt.
Very humorist man, plenty of wise anecdotes and profound connoisseur of life and what it is, I suggest this book to all that people who wants to read it as a sort of mirror of the times.
The past is our present, reading between the lines of Nadar's stories and you will discover a shocking relevance with our times seen through the lenses of common but special and precious stories of his daily-life as a photographer or just as a man.
I consider of great modernity the story of the pharmacist, "the other" and his wife but also the one of the Bee Tamer.
Nadar wasn't just in grade to take great pictures but to my own point of view to take a general photography of the society where he was living in, the one of 1800, with lucidity, humor and some touch of melancholy for the good past times as for example in this passage of the book where he says:
"We are far from the days when, as children, we would hold our caps low even in the most humble shop, where we were told to take them off in order to give a penny to a poor man, and when mom would refuse our pleas to replace our hold hat, the whole thing being superfluous, because a hat "is held in he hand."
Always in the same page:
"Some old families still try to keep and transmit received traditions; but everything wears out, and very soon we will wonder what could well be the nature of that politeness whose evocation would find nothing to respond to it in the new order of things. What a pity! Courtesy, amiability, affability, were not, in fact, other than delicate means, dilutions of sensitivity, of goodness- and this politeness which seems to be lost forever was not one of the least charms of our France race..."
This book speaks of change of times, habits, and also new opportunities and discoveries. A moment of ferment for the world, exciting and an opportunity for discovering places in different cases that no one would have visited for sure with new, incredible instruments.
Nadar portrayed dead people as part of his works, and I guess you will find interesting a story of a picture taken at a young dead man and the persecution the photographer felt upon him for the rest of his life because of a woman relative of this man...
Nadar visited Paris's catacombs, he was the man who portrayed also, let's also add this curiosity Honoré de Balzac, Baudelaire and many other well-known people of that times although I would want to remember him as the "Flying Photographer!"
What a freedom!
Highly recommended to all pictures-lovers but also to all that people fascinated by story-telling. Nadar was a great story-teller.
I thank MIT Press for the physical copy of this beautiful book!
Anna Maria Polidori