Art Shay on photographing Simone de Beauvoir

Art Shay on photographing Simone de Beauvoir

January 26, 2010

From the article “Good Nudes From My Naughty World” by Art Shay, at Swans Commentary:

Two years ago The New Yorker did a mocking article on my furtive nude picture of Simone de Beauvoir. It had appeared on the January 2008 cover of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur to mark my old friend and feminist’s 100th birthday. Her Chicago novelist lover, when they were both around forty, was my buddy, the novelist and intellectual woman fancier Nelson Algren. He had begged me to find a bathtub for Madame. He bathed at the Division Street Y, and the Y, in 1950, was not yet up to letting a woman into their natatorium.

“It’s quite a rear,” The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik gushed. “The picture was taken in 1950 by, of all people, an American — the photographer Art Shay — in, of all places, Chicago, where Beauvoir was canoodling bilingually with Nelson Algren.”

To be singled out by The New Yorker as one “of all people, an American” who shot the picture in “of all places, Chicago” makes me feel like Ingrid Bergman stumbling upon Humphrey Bogart who as Rick says, “of all the gin joints in all the towns of the world, she walks into mine” while Dooley Wilson tinkles out “As Time Goes By” on the pleasantly off-key piano.

For the rest of the article, please see Swans Commentary — and for more photos of Algren-era Chicago from Art Shay, take a look at Shay’s classic Chicago’s Nelson Algren from Seven Stories Press.

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