Guest contributor: Luc Sante

The fact that it took so long for photography to get any respect is illustrated by how long it took for photographs to appear on book jackets, fiction in particular. When photos did appear they did so in France and on the noir tip, naturally. The Simenon is one of the first series of books he published under his real name, starting 1931. The Fantômas is from the 1932 second edition (after two decades of reprints). Both were published by Arthème Fayard, while the slim 60-odd-page Collection Police and Police et Mystère series (1932-1940) were put out by Ferenczi. The photographers repeat from one house to the next: Studio Piaz (best known for showbiz portraits, lasted into the 1950s), Lecram ("Marcel" backwards), Henri Manuel (a maker of official portraits, then an image factory), Hug Block (once Robert Capa's employer). Together they might make up the output of a small-time movie studio, with the Fayard titles upholding the high end like solid B pictures and the Ferenczis fizzing like slap-up improvised two-reelers.

Luc Sante decided at age 18 to be a writer rather than a graphic designer, and often thinks the grass looks greener over there. His cryogenically preserved blog can be found here. (He is also the author of one of the great books about New York, Low Life.)

Thanks Luc!


  1. Excellent collection! Almost feels 'back to nature'-esque. Love them

  2. Super, and I know the photos are the focus, but I could not help appreciating the hand done type (almost as if done with white-out) on many of these and that lovely hand drawn "?" on the 2nd and 5th ones down. They do all look like outtakes from old flicks. Wonderful.