A Personal Connection to Paris and The Famous Studio Harcourt

When you receive an invitation to one of the world’s finest photography fairs, you don’t ask questions, you just go.

Not only did Astrid receive an invitation to Paris Photo, she was invited to attend an exclusive, private viewing of the 2018 Paris Photo Exhibition by her bank, J.P Morgan. Truth be told, Astrid was a bit apprehensive about accepting this invitation. She hadn’t planned to take any more trips in 2018, but the more she thought about it, she decided this opportunity was simply meant to be.

To understand why, you need to know a bit about Astrid’s history with Paris and photography, and how the two are inextricably linked. She explained a bit about the backstory in her latest podcast, which I highly recommend listening to here. Astrid tells her stories with such magic and enthusiasm, that it is an absolute pleasure to get lost in them. But to read my brief synopsis, read on.

 Astrid poses for a photo under a sign for Place de la Reine Astrid

Astrid poses for a photo under a sign for Place de la Reine Astrid

Astrid’s father was a Major in the U.S. Army during WWII, and spent a lot of time in Paris working with French resistance forces who ended up liberating Paris from Nazi occupation in 1944. He formed connections with several French aristocrats during this time, but two of them, Jacques Lacroix and Cossette Harcourt, ended up becoming quite close friends of his. This duo was the backbone of Studio Harcourt, a legendary photography studio best known for its iconic glamour-style photos of some of the world’s richest and most famous of the time. A handsome young man, Astrid’s father sat as a test subject for Cossette a number of times at the studio. These photos, now iconic relics of the past, embody the glamour and luxe of 1940s Paris in the most exceptional way.

 A photo from Astrid’s latest trip to Paris of the beautiful stained glass in the historic Sainte Chapelle

A photo from Astrid’s latest trip to Paris of the beautiful stained glass in the historic Sainte Chapelle

Given her father’s history, Astrid’s connection to Paris was always strong, so it was only natural that her first trip to Europe included a visit to the city. Astrid’s father suggested that she stop by and see Studio Harcourt for herself. So in 1969, Astrid found herself standing in the same spot her father had stood almost 20 years prior: on the steps of a magnificent mansion in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The mansion was home to Jacque Lacroix, Cossette Harcourt and Studio Harcourt. Astrid shared how pleased she was to find that the couple was still alive and well, that they remembered her father, and that they wanted to meet his daughter. Astrid ended up having her photo taken at Studio Harcourt during that visit to Paris, which must have been a truly surreal experience for her given her personal connection to the renowned studio.

 A snapshot of Joan of Arc, Paris

A snapshot of Joan of Arc, Paris

Thus, the story comes full circle with this year’s serendipitous trip to Paris which just so happens to link together so many pieces of Astrid’s life. Many of Astrid’s trips tend to develop themes, and this one is definitely photography. In addition to the Paris Photo Exhibit, her itinerary is packed with a number of activities involving photography. Though Jacque and Cossette have since passed, Astrid will be visiting Studio Harcourt to have her photo taken one more time. I know she is looking forward to sharing all the events of this trip to perhaps her favorite city in the world, but for now, check out this video recap of her latest magical trip to the City of Lights. For more stories, listen here.

Until next time,

Madeline Freret

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