UNDERCOVER #10: WILLIAM KLEIN
by Gianpaolo Arena


SERGE GAINSBOURG “Love on the Beat”, 1984 PolyGram


Photo: William Klein Serge Gainsbourg, 1984

Speaking of Serge Gainsbourg is like speaking of France, its culture and its history. Icons like Jacques PrévertJuliette GrècoBoris VianAlain ResnaisPhilip Garrel. A visionary Chansonnier, a soundtrack composer, a poet, a writer, a director, an intellectual, self-destructive and destabilizing. Versatile, seductive, provocative, contradictory, magnetic. Literature, coprophagia, the petomani (Gasogramma is the name of his only novel of 1980), philosophy, and incest. The Gitanes always in hand, the sex, the alcohol (at the bar he used to order a ‘102’ to suggest a double ‘Pastis 51’). Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, Anna Karina, Francois Hardy, France Gall, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Vanessa Paradis, Bambou… In 1984 the release of ‘Love on the Beat’ played on the pronuciation of 'beat’ as that of bite (in French: “penis”). Inside the album one of his most controversial, 'Lemon Incest’, a duet with daughter Charlotte. In the video father and daughter, side by side in a big bed, alternating their voices on this love song based on a study of classical music (Chopin) and invigorated by a funky rhythm. The cover immortalizes him as a diva, with her face made up like a drag queen. In almost a tribute to his uncontrollable desire for transformation there exists this image by William Klein, instinctive photographer, physicist, immediately capable of melting a raw realism with a sense of humor and a fierce black humor, and to move in a credible way from street photography to the world of fashion and advertising.

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LINKS


© Serge Gainsbourg


An exclusive interview with photographer William Klein and a first-ever glimpse behind the scenes at his Paris studio. 'Almost everything is coincidence and luck and chance.' William Klein is one of the twentieth century's most important photographers and film-makers and in this interview for Tate Media, he discusses his experience photographing on the streets of New York, the challenges in publishing his first New York book and how he worked with filmmaker Federico Fellini. 2013

© All copyright remains with the photographer and property

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Undercover is a special issue dedicated to photographers and musical covers.