Photo Booth

by Elisabeth Biondi


The New Yorker


Whenever I’m on trip or at a museum, I look for postcards to take home: not the standard color tourist specimen, but the black-and-white beauties or the quirky, funny ones. I send them to friends or take them home to be dispatched later. Often I have a hard time letting them go and selfishly keep them for myself.

Robert Stevens, an art historian and the author of the beautiful book Yvon’s Paris, collected postcards of Paris for years. He noticed that postcards with the signature YVON stood out visually and were far superior to the rest. The compositions were perfect, the mood was dreamy, Paris was shown from its best side, and the printing was excellent. Diligent research finally revealed that between the First and Second World Wars, Monsieur Jean Pierre Yves Petit, later known as Yvon, documented the beauty of his beloved city incessantly, perhaps obsessively. He eventually established his own postcard company, Editions d’Artes Yvon, where he had his pictures gravure printed for better reproduction.

It took Stevens ten years to track down Yvon’s contact prints and glass negatives, in a filing cabinet at Yvon’s company. It was still in business, though under a new owner, and the postcards it produced looked very different indeed.

Yvon’s images, on view at Higher Pictures through January 29th, make me nostalgic for my Paris. I was nineteen then, an au pair girl, and lived with my gracious French family near the Eiffel Tower. There’s a good chance I bought an Yvon postcard and sent it to my friends in Germany, and just didn’t know it.


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