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A PHOTO STORY: Camping by the Sea & the French cigarette ~ France 1960


Camping by the Sea & the French cigarette ~
France 1960

When this black and white photo was taken, my  youngest sibling was a baby and spent our photo shoots relaxing in the Kleiner Bus (“Small Bus”, our VW camper), our home away from our German home. That’s Big Sister, Big Brother, and Me with our Mom.

Mom was a classy camper; in all the photos and films of that time she always looked great, always put-together, long hair always beautifully done up in a “French twist”. Large flat-button clip-on earrings were Mom’s trademark fashion always. Her beautiful, flowy cotton skirt in this photo was a white pattern of sea shells on a background of brilliant cobalt blue. Dad shot many colour 8mm movies as well as black & white stills and 35 mm slides. That’s where my memory of the bright blue skirt comes from… in the movie version of this photograph there’s a close-up of Mom as she strolls across the scene taking a drag off a French cigarette while gazing at the sea. She looks like a movie star.

Many years later Dad would get out the family movies on occasion, and while we were always eager to watch,  it typically turned into a stress-filled evening with film-breakages, malfunctioning projectors, cursing, and even some melting, bubbling film images when somehow the film got too close to the light source. Dad would play the movies in a smoke-filled living room as he chain-smoked cigarettes. Although HE was still a smoker, he would tease Mom for doing it those many years before when we were all so young (she quit when we were all still little kids). Failing to see his own irony, he would always replay that part of the film as Mom strolled by the sea wall taking a single, elegant even, drag off that French cigarette. Projected on the screen before us was Mom being wound and rewound by the projectionist – forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards. Puffing, inhaling, exhaling, backwards walking, forward walking, smoking in reverse, until we would all roll our eyes at Dad and tell him to cut it out and get on with it. Regardless… Mom was still movie-star beautiful in those images and always was.

 © 2014 deb davies thorkelson {bluerock / debrazone}

images: vintage family photo taken by my dad either with the Brownie camera or his German-made Kodak 35 mm. Sorry about the quality: the only copy I have is a poor scan. The “smoking” image is from the internet:

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3 replies »

  1. This is a wonderful post! It so reminds me of the same scenes from my childhood – my beautiful and well dressed mother, even on the camping trips, and the nights in the living room with projector and “slide-shows.” Same era as well. We were lucky to have such wonderful mothers and fathers who liked photography. Thanks for an enjoyable post.


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