Interview with Adam Begley
Author Adam Begley returns to the Library to talk about his book The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera on Wednesday 18 October. Here he answers questions on his first memory being in a library and how he got interested in Nadar.
What are your earliest memories of being in a library?
I believe the first time I kissed a girl was in the basement stacks of the school library – but all my early library memories are hazy. More recently, I spent days and days in the BnF reading Nadar’s correspondence. Nineteenth-century handwriting! Reams and reams of it. It’s a curious state when you’re super excited and wearied at the same time. Reading rooms are as a consequence somewhat magical to me – they’re places where you experience wild emotions in hushed surroundings.
How did you come to be interested in Nadar?
There was a massive exhibition of Nadar’s photography in the summer of 1994 at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris which traveled the following year to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I saw the show at the Met and it convinced me that Nadar was one of the great portrait photographers of all time – if not the greatest. But nearly twenty years passed before I tried to find out about Nadar’s life. The catalyst was Julian Barne’s Levels of Life, an unusual book, part essay, part short story, part memoir, n which Barnes briefly sketches the contours of Nadar’s curious career and impressible character. Thanks to Barnes, Felix charmed me, as he had charmed so many others. When I discovered that though there were three biographers of Nadar in French, there was none in English. I decided to take the plunge.