Life in Occupied Paris

by jennine on June 17, 2008

There are no posters around Paris for this exhibition, and had it not been for a post on Cafe Mode, I’d probably never had known about it. At the City Hall Library is an 250-photo exhibition of French photographer André Zucca’s vision of Paris during the Nazi occupation. To be honest, we were in a rush, the exhibit was in French, and we gathered our collective knowledge of the WWII and what had happened, and talked about other exhibitions which relay raw, unflinching experiences of the holocaust in Berlin and in Los Angeles. Not really a political person, I went through this experience of seeing fabulously dressed women on sunny days at first inspired, but then disturbed remembering, the very serious circumstance the photos are taken.

André Zucca was a photo journalist before the war, and during the occupation, he photographed for a Nazi propaganda publication the Signal. He had access to color film, at a time it was near impossible to find. The photos in the exhibition are unpublished, probably a catalog of daily life, of pretty women. I have no idea why the City Library chose to display these works in this way, in an unreal and apolitical, and in a very real way I was caught up in the beautiful 1940’s fashion…

The first casualty of war is truth…

…what’s disturbing about this exhibition, is not how much things have changed, but how they have not changed.

I’d like to think that I’m somehow different from these women. That I would be miserable, that I would fight back, escape, something. I think what’s disturbing about this exhibition, is not how much things have changed, but how they have not changed. How I go about my day-to-day life, often forgetting my own country is at war, and a morally questionable one at that. Or the suffering I feel helpless against, in the world, and even in my old neighborhood (there’s no homeless or prostitution in my new neighborhood, but the problem didn’t go away because I moved).

What disturbed me most about this Life in Occupied Paris, is that I didn’t want to see the grim reality, that I was quite comfortable in a beautiful, detached world. That indeed, it’s the path I chose quite often.

Images Via Cafe Mode, France 24

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Patti June 17, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Fascinating post. I must say the shoes, hats and jackets are gorgeous.


Ashe Mischief June 17, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Amazing, and provocative post, Jennine! I love the the parallels between modern society and the 40s, and fashion as a means of escape? Perhaps of avoidance?

Either way, very thoughtful. Thank you.


susie_bubble June 18, 2008 at 2:00 am

I loved these the first time I saw them and I love them here again…


Imelda June 18, 2008 at 5:45 am

Looks like a great exhibition, would love to go there!


jennine June 18, 2008 at 6:39 am

yes, i know cafe mode posted these pics a while back, but i imagine her readers and my readers are a different group, being as most of the coveted’s traffic comes from the US, so i felt compelled to post about the exhibition on my blog too.

and of course these women are stylish, they’re parisian. but that’s not what this post is about.


Anna June 18, 2008 at 7:54 am

Hi, first of all I really enjoy reading your blog… you wrote about doing something about the situation you’re in and not ignoring it…well if you’ll constantly think about the situation you’re in, you can go crazy…I live 20 km from Gaza in Israel (withot getting all political because I hate politics), and you can imagine that it’s a very complicated situation here, but I’m reading fashion blogs…vouge, elle etc’…dreaming about bying a dior coat I saw the other day, going out, dressing up…it’s about escapizm and about being put into a situation you didn’t want to be in the first place…And I’m not alone in this…I think every person would like to escape to a better reality…I totally understand thesw women:)


Poochie June 18, 2008 at 9:22 am

As Anna says, you need to cope. And of course there is lots of controversy regarding Paris and the coutry’s actions at that time. Hard to say how you would react or need to react to survive.

That said, the blond in the pink hat is gorgeous(as is her hat and suit) and those heels in the next to last image look just like the recent Nine West ones. Vintage inspiration!



jennine June 18, 2008 at 1:09 pm

thanks for leaving such an honest comment anna… politics are so difficult, they really are

poochie, i thought the same thing when i saw those shoes…


bobble-bee June 21, 2008 at 12:55 pm

joder… thanks for this post jennine! sometimes (many actually) the best exhibitions are not well or AT ALL, advertised. It can be lack of mediums or difficult subjects… or both.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv Enabled

Previous post:

Next post: