Edward Quinn, Photographer

The Edward Quinn Archive

Riviera Cocktail

Edward Quinn, Photographer Nice
(Introduction for the book „Riviera Cocktail“, teNeues Publishing Group 2007)
The Archive contains pictures taken by Edward Quinn on the Côte d’Azur during the fifties up to the seventies, while he was working for international magazines like PARIS MATCH and LIFE. Most likely all the very important personalities who came to the Riviera during the “golden fifties” were photographed by Quinn. The Archive represents a wide spectrum of stars from John Wayne to Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly, Hitchcock or Churchill. In 1951 Edward Quinn met and photographed Pablo Picasso for the first time. Their friendship lasted until Picasso’s death in 1973. Since the 60s Quinn concentrated his work on artists, amongst them Max Ernst, Alexander Calder, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Graham Sutherland, David Hockney. Photos of the archive are available for collectors as modern prints, silver gelatine quality (Baryt).

Heinz Bütler

No other photographer has documented the social and cultural life on the Côte d’Azur of the “Golden ‘50s” so comprehensively, alertly, and with such fine irony as the Irishman Edward Quinn (1920–1997). For over a decade Quinn ventured discreetly and tenaciously in the society jungle of the French Riviera, and lifted unrivaled treasures from this ignis fatuus epicenter of highlife, big business, art, music, and literature. Quinn’s estate comprises more than 100,000 negatives, 10,000 contact sheets, thousands of prints in all formats, documents, letters, and photos collected since the time a poster hung in Nice with the text, “Eddie Quinero. Celebrated electric guitarist. For the first time on the Côte d’Azur. Chez Léontine, Cabaret Américain, Saturday and Sunday, September 24–25, 1949.”
Film stars, starlets, painters, sculptors, gamblers, ex-kings, jazz musicians, nobility, shipping magnates, directors, chansonniers, politicians, race car drivers, pin-up girls, conductors, writers, prima donnas, playboys, choreographers, film producers—all protagonists in a performance of a social and cultural spectacle of blinding grandeur. On the French Riviera of the 1950s, the jet set and demi-monde live from gala night to gala night, while cultural notables prefer the calm of the countryside where they settled shortly after the end of the war, when houses were still affordable. The glamorous focus on the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes and luxury hotels like the Carlton, in the suites where the music hall singer and dancer, courtesan and femme fatale “La belle Otéro” turned the heads of Belle Epoque kings and millionaires. Otéro’s mythical bosom was supposedly the architect’s inspiration for the Carlton’s black twin cupola. Aggravation came later with a trouble-making journalist named Benito Mussolini who was expelled from the hotel lobby. Aristide Briand played the cello in room 328.
Tino Rossi sings “Méditerranée aux îles d’or ensoleillées, aux rivages sans nuages, au ciel enchanté”, the refrain from his memorable chanson in the operette «Méditerranée». But here and there the world’s horizon is bleak. The ‘50s are a decade of violence and uncertainty: nuclear threat, civil war in Congo and Algeria, Suez and Cyprus crises, race riots in Notting Hill and Little Rock, and Senator McCarthy’s witch hunt.
On the Côte d’Azur one rather looks above and beyond to Nat King Cole, singing “True Love” at the Sporting d’Éte in Monte Carlo under a starry sky and the sound of the sea. The existentialists and their muses sway barefoot and cheek-to-cheek to Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur” at the Vieux Colombier in Juan-les-Pins. The moonlight shines on the caviar. Liz Taylor and entourage move to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
James Dean becomes an idol to a youth that rebels against a fishy atmosphere of bonhomie and stuffiness. From the opposing point of view, the alarmed see the juke box as a danger to prevailing morals, and musical craziness and anarchy in rock ‘n’ roll. Plastic replaces Bakelite. All-inclusive vacations are introduced. The sound barrier is broken. Outer space is conquered. Teenagers arrive. Françoise Sagan, after her scandalous debut and bestseller, Bonjour tristesse, works on her new book, Un certain sourire in the Carlton Hotel. Samuel Beckett publishes his Malone meurt. Charles Schultz invents the “Peanuts.” And Citroën launches the DS, the Déesse, the Goddess. In Hollywood, the grand period of the studio system comes to an end.
At the Vieux Colombier in Juan-les-Pins, Juliette Gréco sings chansons that Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Queneau wrote for her, in a black sweater and trousers—what then was cause enough for a scandal. The highlife on the Grand Boulevard of self-portrayal resembles a serialized novel that takes place in a social percolator kept running around the clock at maximum temperature by the local gossip columnists. And yet, in permanent-smile-for-the-camera-land, unrestricted photography is possible with cleverness and contacts—before money, strictly coordinated TV and press contracts, agents and PR representatives regimented access to the stars in the course of the 60s, and the paparazzi principle would prevail for good.
Edward Quinn wanders through the gala nights between Cannes and Monte Carlo. He photographs the best-dressed and most beautiful women of the age with the “soundtrack” of the era in the background: Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “True Love”—the song that Grace Kelly sang in High Society. Sinatra sings “You Make Me Feel So Young,” Edith Piaf “Hymne à l’amour,” and Charles Aznavour “Tu te laisses aller.”
Edward Quinn’s Leica and Rolleiflex are running strong. Click around the clock: Winston Churchill lodges at Lord Beaverbrook’s villa Capponcina at Cap d’Ails. Silvana Mangano and Gina Lollobrigida play pétanque at Dino De Laurentiis’s villa Casa del Mare; Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina look on as they play. T. S. Eliot and his new young wife Valérie spend their honeymoon in Menton. Onassis leaves a nightclub in Monte-Carlo with Maria Callas; the prima donna falls in love with the shipping magnate. Colette procures the leading role in Gigi on Broadway for Audrey Hepburn. Vivien Leigh goes on a cruise with her husband Sir Laurence Olivier. Ginger Rogers dances at the Cannes Film Festival. Liz Taylor discovers a necklace and earrings, only a $500,000 matter of expense. Gianni Agnelli walks with a cane after a car accident. Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Aznavour, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Eartha Kitt perform at gala evenings in the Sporting d’Éte in Monte Carlo; in rapture Gary Cooper throws roses onto the stage for Edith Piaf. Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss each win the Monaco Grand Prix twice. Jean Cocteau paints the villa Santo Sospir on Cap Ferrat where he lives for several years. James Stewart swims in the sea. Somerset Maugham smokes in bed. Sir Thomas Beecham puts a rhododendron blossom in his lapel. The romance between Kim Novak and Cary Grant is a highlight of the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. The Shah of Persia disembarks from his private plane. Alfred Hitchcock serves Grace Kelly coffee on the set of To Catch a Thief. Marlon Brando is considered “America’s intellectual pin-up boy.” Aldous Huxley takes part in a parapsychology seminary in VenceAt the wedding party of Sidney Bechet and Elisabeth Ziegler at Antibes Sidney Bechet and Mistinguette, one of the guests, enjoy a dance. Pablo Picasso draws with his children Claude and Paloma in the villa La Galloise. Edward G. Robinson and Kirk Douglas are engrossed in discussion in front of the Carlton Hotel. Brigitte Bardot delivers an unrestrained mambo number in Et Dieu créa la femme. Quinn documents the scene with success. “I’ve seen a few of the mambo photos at the PARIS MATCH offices. If you have even more exciting ones with Bardot in other provocative poses or stages of undressing, please send. Fawcett would like a selection. What we publish will be paid for. The rest will be returned to you. If you cannot deliver, please let us know. Best regards, George Harold.”
“I saw some of the Mambo photos in the MATCH office here. If you have any even more exciting ones, also anything showing Bardot in other provocative attitudes or stages of undress, please send it along. Fawcett wants to have a choice and will pay those it takes, return the others promptly. If for some reason you cannot oblige, please let me know. Best regards, George Harold.”
Edward (“Ted”) Quinn realizes early that life is somewhere else. Not in poor Dublin where he was born. Not in Belfast where he plays Hawaiian steel guitar in a band or in a church where he survives a German air strike. Not as a radio operator in the Royal Air Force and not in the jalopy Chartair, in which he spends the first postwar years shuttling back and forth, radioing between Africa and Europe. In 1949 it is clear to Edward Quinn that the ultimate destination is called La Côte d’Azur. Here, too, he at first ekes out a living as a musician (guitar, singing, contrabass). Attracted by the “calm, old-fashioned elegance” of Monaco, he rents a small apartment in Monaco-Ville with a view of the Princely Palace. In the beginning, Ted points the lens of his borrowed Kodak Retina towards everything that has any prospect of earning a bit of money, for example the warships HMS Mermaid and HMS Magpie anchored at Monaco harbour. All together Quinn sells a hundred souvenir photos to the ships’ crew, however earns nothing since he has to have the pictures professionally enlarged. Quinn also photographs court rooms until he finds out what newspapers and magazines are really interested in: people in the news. As visual instruction, the American National Enquirer sends copies of photos that the editors are keen on, “As you can see, we prefer the bikini swimsuit and the type of figure that fills it well.”
In a Mathys cabriolet, Ted and his Swiss girlfriend Gret explore the coasts, the back country and, with increasing fascination, the appearances of the wealthy and beautiful who recuperate here from being famous and earning money. The technique can be learned. Either one has the eye, or does not. With the investment in a Rolleiflex and an old enlarger, Quinn soon makes his fascination for the social fireworks on the blue coast his profession for good.
The first photographs that Gret Quinn, together with her husband, enlarges, archives and sends to illustrated magazines, agencies and Sunday newspapers throughout Europe belong to the pin-up-photography department. Modelling agencies on the Côte d’Azur do not exist yet. Quinn is left to his own devices to seek out beach beauties eager to have their photos taken for a desired career in Cinecittà or Hollywood. He learned from articles in technical magazines what props can be useful to make an image livelier. Bric-à-brac, for example, strewn about the amateur model breaks the monotony of the sand and ignites the viewer’s fantasy. A guitar lying in the sand is also appropriate for giving a photograph a “special note.” For black and white photographs Max Factor’s N25 make-up was recommended, N3 for color photos. From today’s point of view, the early 1950s pin-up-girls’ repertoire of cricked poses looks somehow unintentionally funny. At the same time, they document an erotic innocence that in the meantime has been completely lost in this field of photography, and which is derived from the tension of wanting, but not being allowed to show everything.
More and more agencies become interested in Quinn’s pin-up photos and feature stories, and through the International News Service, Edward Quinn also gains access to the newspaper and news business. Ultimately he supplies famous magazines like PARIS MATCH and LIFE with his images of the highlife in hotel suites, on yachts and boardwalks.
In the Edward Quinn Archive one discovers that a number of stars began their careers as pin-ups, and, like in the case of Audrey Hepburn, as barely known actresses. Audrey Hepburn—announced as Audrey Hopbern in a press release—arrived at the Côte d’Azur in 1951 to play a minor role in the film Monte Carlo Baby. Quinn recognized her acting abilities and proposed a photo shoot in the countryside. Audrey sent the photos to her agent in Hollywood and was thereafter given the female lead in Roman Holiday for which she won an Oscar.
A certain type of sex appeal that is completely different from the style and elegance of Hepburn, Bergman, Kelly, or Morgan gradually takes hold at the beach and on the silver screen. And no other emerging actress embodies the new trend of explicitness as clearly as the “sex kitten” Brigitte Bardot who is just as young (18 years old) as she is unknown when Edward Quinn photographs her for the first time.
Consensual collaboration with Bardot is possible until 1956. Quinn’s photographic production reveals Brigitte Bardot and the hype surrounding her persona, and documents with an impartiality and ease that divulges more authenticity than the photos of the private photographers whom (in the meantime) the highly-paid star hires. From this point on, Brigitte Bardot can only be seen in many photos as a coldly staged icon of the film industry.
Thankfully there is still Jayne Mansfield baring herself for the photographers on the pontoon, while in another Quinn photograph, female fans in bikinis make sheep’s eyes at Gary Cooper in suit and tie in front of the Carlton Hotel’s Viennese-pastry-facade in Cannes. Quinn’s picture story of the flirt between Kim Novak and Cary Grant from 1959 yielded promising posters of a Hollywood romance film that was never made.
You would knock at the door very officially, and once the door was open, you would say, “Well look, I’ve been sent by some magazine or newspaper, to get a picture of you.” You had to sound very convincing. Actually I did represent some magazines, so it wasn’t bad. I worked for PARIS MATCH, so I might say, “I’m from PARIS MATCH.” Then they’d say, “Okay, come back in ten minutes,” or something like that. And I would come back in ten minutes, and they might say, “Come back in another ten minutes.” You had to persist, you know.
Edward Quinn is on the hunt for shots that large-circulation presses will sell to a public of millions as a glimpse into the real life of the beautiful and wealthy. He photographs what is marketable and thus, more or less secures his livelihood. He helps cover the gossip pages’ need for glamour, but also delivers photographic quality. The Loren episode during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival leaves one to presume that Quinn was something like the synthesis of controlled bravado and door-opening charm.
At a press conference in Loren’s hotel room, the pack of photographers crowd and push while Quinn chooses to disappear into the bathroom. He comes out once the throng has pulled away. Charming “Ted” apologizes to Loren and justifies his conduct with the request for a few shots from his own point of view, as it is his way of photographing. To Sophia Loren that makes sense, and as always, with virtuosity Quinn uses the space between calculated theatricality and spontaneity, which many stars grant him with visible pleasure.
One of the best things was that people had so much confidence in me, that they didn’t ask to see the photographs after I had taken them. They knew that I wouldn’t go to publish anything that would be too disgraceful, because you can easily make bad pictures. It’s a question of the instant when you press the button. That’s what’s great about photography. Every fraction of a second there’s a new image. The person has moved, the light has changed a little bit. You’re never at rest, and there’s never the perfect photo. You have to try to combine and be satisfied with what you feel is the best in the situation. Obviously I was influenced by a lot of very famous photographers. Cartier-Bresson of course was one of the number one people, because if you notice in his pictures everything comes together. The background is there, the moment is just right. And he got that by waiting, waiting, waiting, and also being very absent. He would never try to show himself. Having that kind of photography in the back of your mind, when you’re in a situation...then you thought about all these things and try to put them together. Even in the actuality, and when you’re dealing with film stars, you wanted to try to get them out at their best.
Without being ingratiating, Quinn manages to photograph momentary relationships that always give us, as spectators, the sense of the private person behind the star and Hollywood façade. Perhaps exactly what seems to be staged and brilliantly performed is actually authentic, and what seems natural is staged. That fits Quinn because he, too, achieved his best results on the fine line between cunning and courtesy. The filmic black and white aesthetic thereby completely transports the best images to areas of nostalgia and desire where the unspoken has greater effect than the explicit with no secrets. Moreover, the stars and celebrities have nothing to be afraid of in the anti-paparazzo Quinn. He does not simply exhibit his players, but rather portrays them as the stars themselves like most to be seen.
Quinn drops by at many places whenever he wants and photographs the way he wants—as on Onassis’s yacht Christina where, for publicity purposes, the shipping magnate prefers to host Hollywood and political notables, including Winston Churchill. No wonder that Quinn runs into John Wayne who was just eyeing a Pathé film camera like a colt.
A stoic Somerset Maugham allows himself to be photographed while smoking in bed. Marlon Brando strolls for Quinn with his fiancée (a fisherman’s daughter—with no happy ending) through the village of Bandol. In 1955 at Edward Quinn’s request, Grace Kelly embarks on a tour through the Princely Palace in Monaco until the late-arriving Rainier III arrives—a handshake and a year later a wedding. But another breeze is blowing, and for the lone wolf photo-hunter Quinn, the prospects are getting narrower. Princess Grace now has her own private photographer and Prince Rainier engaged a PR agent. “MM. Les photographes” are “authorized to approach the dance floor and photograph the princely table for approximately four minutes.”
The preoccupation with Edward Quinn’s Riviera chronicle is also an amusing guessing game. Who is the portly man in hat and sunglasses whose right hand rests in the side pocket of his double-breasted pinstriped jacket, and at the moment is leaving a train carriage inscribed with carrozza? Is he a Mafioso, detective, or bodyguard? It is the Egyptian ex-King Faruk disembarking from the Train Bleu in Nice in 1953, the feudal train connection between Paris and the Riviera. Who is playing tennis here à la Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot? Peter Ustinov. Who is the older, elegant gentleman who is smiling at an attractive, noticeably younger woman, who for her part is smiling into the photographer’s lens? Father? Husband? Lover? Quinn’s photo shows Zsa Zsa Gabor and the 80-year-old Aga Khan III in front of his villa Yakymour in 1955. The G.I., rifle and all, who in Quinn’s photo is leaning against a boardwalk wall is not authentic, it is Frank Sinatra in Kings Go Forth playing a G.I. who, due to the confusion at the end of the Second World War, ends up on the Côte d’Azur.

Only the books Stars Off the Screen (1994) and Edward Quinn, Fotograf, Nizza (1997), and important exhibitions and retrospectives in the last years of Quinn’s life definitively liberated his photographic “Riviera Cocktail” from the context of magazines and proved the quality of this important part of his work based on artistic criteria.

One recognized that Quinn’s best photos live just as well from what they show and how they show it, as from that which (for the benefit of our fantasy, speculation, and desires) is left unspoken or in productive suspension. The photos also make clear in which photographic reference system Quinn moved, when spontaneity and image composition formed a forceful visual unity in his images. And in the thickest mêlée of a party, Quinn’s virtuosity of disappearing from the crowd with the intention of searching for his viewpoint beyond the pack of photographers, proved valuable.
Barely settled on the Riviera as a professional photographer, Edward Quinn sought out the acquaintance of Pablo Picasso. For the international press, Picasso was a media star. Picasso photos sold just as well as photos of the big stars of the era. At the first encounter with the artist, Quinn’s strategy—to consistently forgo the working methods of society photographers who besieged the artist at every (public) opportunity—proved effective once again. In 1951 as the reporters retreated from the ceramics exhibition in Vallauris and were already on their way to their agencies with their Picasso photos, Quinn remained, introduced himself and asked Picasso if he could photograph him with his children, Claude and Paloma. Picasso was so pleased with the photographs that he, for a start, granted Quinn access to his ceramic studio in Vallauris. The artist was not only unbothered by Quinn (“Lui, il ne me dérange pas. [He doesn’t disturb me.]”), he actively participated in Quinn’s photo project because he also recognized the sense of serious photographic coverage of his work and world.
"As soon as I began to photograph, he concentrated on his own expression as if he wanted to show his best side. But after a few minutes he was already so preoccupied or engrossed in conversation that he forgot about me completely. That was the exact situation I needed to take candid and believable pictures of him. To this purpose I used my camera like a pencil, taking down Picasso’s myriad activities in his familiar surroundings."
Picasso granted no other photographer access to his private life in a comparable way and he never ever wanted to see a photo before its publication. Quinn’s photographs provide insight into the life and work world where, in the most hidden corners, traces of the creative process of finished and unfinished works are to be discovered. The entirety is an environment and complete work of art between the poles of everyday life and art, intensity of life and obsessive immersion in work—the opposing world to the glamour circus on the coast in the seclusion of the hinterland.
Picasso and I talked on the phone again a few days before his death. His voice sounded strange, and I had the feeling something wasn’t right. He said that we had to get together again soon. These words were very important to me for they confirmed our friendship. I had not been to his house in over a year. Picasso didn’t want to be photographed anymore. He had changed...
Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973. His world was the last that still connected Edward Quinn to the Côte d’Azur. The future still led him to Georg Baselitz’s atelier in Imperia, primarily, however, to Derneburg, in Northern Germany where Edward Quinn’s last photographic art story begins. Georg Baselitz is familiar with Quinn’s Picasso books and consents to a collaboration of similar intensity and detail.
In 1992 Edward and Gret Quinn move to Switzerland. A half century later, the Côte d’Azur of the Golden ‘50s is transformed into a mysterious region within the attic of the Edward Quinn Archive. Gret Quinn sits in front of the enlarger and restores the starring and supporting actors of the time to an ephemeral comeback. The negatives rarely hint at who is recorded on them, but then on the photo paper, the diffused illegible gray areas transform into the stars who populate our film memory, for example, Audrey Hepburn. Photographs of her spur memories of Sabrina (1954) with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, directed by Billy Wilder, of Blake Edwards’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), and of My Fair Lady (1964) with Rex Harrison, directed by George Cukor.
Edward Quinn’s photographs invite inspection and read like an encyclopedia of the kind of life that is beyond reality and transported to the Bel Étage in the Land of the Smile. No one works. No one suffers. No one cries. One is either a star or an extra, who also occasionally ends up in the picture by accident and with this minor appearance amplifies many photos into photo history. And thus, as in Quinn’s star photographs, the transitions between persona and everyday life, theatricality and naturalness, are blurred. His photos of the culturally prominent of the era also show the artists and writers as part of an “atmospheric entirety of the time” (Boris Groys) in which the need for authenticity was not yet an aesthetic requirement.
Does Quinn really show the “real” Picasso, the “real” Zsa Zsa Gabor? Can photography even advance to any kind of truth behind the portrayed? Quinn’s artist portraits that fashion so many sides of the artist’s personality, particularly his photos of Picasso, pose lasting questions about the truth of photographic images altogether.
From the beginning of her collaboration with her husband, Gret Quinn was responsible for the processing, administration and archiving of “Stars” from Aimée, Anouk through Zanuck, Darryl; “Culture” from Aragon, Louis through Warhol, Andy; and “Celebrities” from Adenauer, Konrad through Zita (ex-Empress of Austria). One must rely on Gret Quinn’s sense of orientation in time travel to 1950s Côte d’Azur. And what at first glance into the archive seems improvised and impenetrable proves through a search for Orson Welles, Kirk Douglas, Alain Delon, Cary Grant, Gina Lollobrigida, Le Corbusier, Simone Signoret, and Roberto Rossellini, to be a well-considered, organized photographic cosmos.
Dozens of folders in the whole color spectrum put the world of the 1950s Côte d’Azur into order on innumerable contact sheets listed with names and categories. On envelopes—filed in champagne boxes—is the cast for the ultimate Hollywood film; inside the envelopes the parade of stars, celebrities, artists, and literati on 6 x 6 cm and 35 mm negatives. Then there are the series of vintage prints and large format prints that were to be seen at the Edward Quinn exhibitions.
Many actors in Quinn’s Riviera chronicle are forgotten. Others live on in the collective film consciousness even when they have long passed away. And along the way, entering Quinn’s world already sharpens the consciousness of the transient, of a definitive … THE END.
Heinz Bütler


Title photo: Edward Quinn, Zurich 1983. © Eric Bachmann