‘While browsing a shelf of traditional photo-journalism, I came across the treasures of these department-store window displays, of childhood through the seasons. Who has never imagined that the dummies come alive at night and have a ball?’
THE 1950s WERE HAPPY TIMES INDEED
We lived frugally. We walked around, and in each quarter discovered characters with unconventional attitudes.
Yet naturally I had to find photographs to take – I was established in my profession – and to make a living from them.
One day, the Printemps department-store chain asked me to photograph all their window displays every time the seasons changed. Although I found the work devoid of interest, it challenged me to work fast.
The method was quickly devised. I photographed at night to avoid reflections in the glass – at a rate of sixty an hour! – while my husband chatted with the boulevard prostitutes. For one of the display backdrops, I had photographed the chairs in the Tuileries Gardens, and when I wanted to photograph the window display, a tramp fell asleep in front of it
I didn’t think that, fifty years later, I would be looking again at these rolls of shots, which were cluttering up the place in two shoeboxes.
It was a request from the museum in Barcelona, which was preparing an exhibition on the 1950s, that caused me to discover what was, at least, an amusing document. The windows displayed gloves, fridges on stands, girl communicants, aprons and seasonal fashions.
Whereas I find that the photographs in my books are timeless, these breadwinning shots clearly show that in the space of half a century, everything has changed.
Sabine Weiss, 2008.
Exhibition curator: Olivier Saillard.
Prints produced by TOROSLAB (Hervé Hudry).