Paris Book Shops: Looking In, Looking Out

Two apparently different book shops in Paris. Two different women at their windows. One looks in at the books, the other looks out from within the display window where she is arranging books. They are separated in time by twenty years or more, but are united here in this space by their photographs, a display of books, and a little imagination.

The top image is a wire photo by Elaine Beery taken from inside the Village Voice Bookstore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1986. I acquired it because of the way the young woman looked at the books on display. There was something deep and thoughtful in her expression frozen in the blink of a camera's shutter. And was that a hint of sadness in her eyes that had nothing to do with the books or just the wistful gaze of a book lover on a restrictive budget?

By contrast, the young woman working in the display window, peers out cheerfully. She smiles and seems to enjoy her task. She is surrounded by books. The back of this vernacular photograph indicates Paris and 1962 with a question mark. I found it for sale online a few years after finding the 1986 photo  and knew immediately the two belonged together, complementing each other across the years. 

Were the two images actually from the same book shop at the same moment, one might conclude that the young woman on the outside found herself daydreaming about killing an afternoon browsing books inside. The inviting smile that greeted her from inside caught her attention and her escape into this other world of books beyond the glass was a foregone conclusion.


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