«What we carry is based on instinct. There are times when the print job is not up to standard, or the other way around. We trust the quality of the photographer and author at that moment»
Under the supervision of head-director Marc Pussemier and co-director, Pauline Boscher is Librairie La Comète, a bookstore in Rue des Récollets whose focus is on photographical books and reading materials. Started in the year 2013, Pussemier’s eight-year tenure at La Comète has assisted in the uplift and appreciation of literature in photography. Upon working with a photography agency for twenty-five years, he diverted from his role to founding his bookstore, Librairie Photographique. «I was with Agency Trademarc, working as an agent for photographers. I left in 2005. Photography is dear to me; I maintained that focus into what I wished for the world to see». Being involved in the photography business for over forty years, he implements that passion at La Comète. «I choose the books and assist in the curation of the store – determining how it is to look and which publishers and photographers to carry. Pauline enables the day-to-day tasks, assisting with administration and communication». Before his tenure in La Comète, the space was named ‘Twenty-Nine’ as per the number of the lot on the street they are located on. In the year 2018, photography group Picto joined forces and has been in collaboration with them, acquiring La Comète. His partner Pauline was hired when La Comete was acquired by the group. «Picto has been in the business for the past seventy years, as of 2020. They have a laboratory above our store». The birth of La Comète was insinuated from being situated by the railway station. «Location wise, it was central, situated near Gare de l’Est railway station». La Comète received its name when it was taken over by Picto. It was a means to give homage to Picto’s first location that was set up in Rue de la Comète. The space is shared across three floors, the ground floor hosting La Comète. The first floor is one of Picto’s three laboratories in Paris. The third floor is a storage unit shared between the two entities. The building was once a newspaper publication and then a co-working space for artists and graphists. The location encourages La Comète to maintain a prestige in the art of photography, playing the role to disseminate information on the matter.
The decision to start a bookstore such as La Comète, whose narrative is on photography was due to the lack of focus on the subject matter. «There are two independent-bookstores in the city of Paris that sell photography books». Living alongside the books is a section on the wall of La Comète which addresses the apotheosis of publishers and photographers. «When it was first open to the public, La Comète held exhibitions. That is not the case any longer as we have diverted our focus to books, carrying three-thousand-and-five-hundred books in the subject of photography». The purpose of hosting exhibitions in the stages of its opening was a means to put the bookstore on the map. This was alongside plateauing creatives that were up-in-coming and those who pre-exist in the industry. As the event space reduced in size, La Comète maintained their efforts, hosting book signings, talks by photographers and themes on future events to be hosted in the confinements of the store, post-pandemic. «In March, we intend on showcasing an exhibition in the store centered on women photographers». Pussemier reiterates, explaining the standard-criteria to be met is creativity. «The space is brimmed, but we wish to make events and exhibitions possible. We have worked with Raymond Depardon, Sophie Calle, Pierre & Gilles and Antoine D’Agata».
Representatives of publishers pitch drafts to La Comète with catalogues of upcoming books to be carried in store. «What we carry is based on instinct. There are times when the print job is not up to standard, or the other way around. One does not know but to take a leap, trusting the quality and creativity of the photographer and author at that moment». There are independent-photographers who approach the director with their work for consideration. La Comète, in addition to working with French publishers and photographers, has employed London based publisher, Morel. In eighty square meters, the length of the store is irradiated with lighting. White light from artificial-sources is used to emphasize the text quality and the print of the pictures on each book put up on the tables. Books are laid in their packaging across four tables in the setting, covers facing the view of the customer. «It is done to give the books an existence and to be seen». Tables are applied in sections based on genres in terms of photographic literature – books on nature, fashion, art, street-photography and Japanese photography. Shelves carry photographers who are deemed to be classics, sharing the space with essays, books on photo-journalism and theories on photography. Materials in the store are harmonized, co-existing. The collaboration with Picto spurred a change in design – moving toward incorporating blond-colored wood in warmer tones that coax a warm atmosphere. Pussemier shares instances where customers request books that one does not ask for in passing. «I listen to the customers and bring in what they want to read». To the director, this is an exchange in knowledge with his buyers. Pussemier shares his adoration for his profession where the bookstore is an entity that allows the communication of an open dialogue between people. «Anyone can purchase books off the internet but there is a social aspect to walking into a store to share information, learn and connect with others. This has amplified due to Covid-19». Books are hand-picked by Pussemier. Vetting each copy to a standard that he upholds, books are to be of quality in print and content. «I abhor when a photographer copies the work of another. I choose books that are original in content and that vary in presentation». Customers have continued to show support for Pussemier and his vocation in Photography, coming into the store, seeking advice or to have a chat.
La Comète offers an accoutrement to the individuals from the locality. It caters itself to the youth of Paris, parents of children and shutterbugs who adore the vocation. «We have a section of books for children. There are parents with kids who go to schools in the neighborhood. It is something we can offer this demographic». Under the guidance of Picto, La Comète is on its way to reduce their collection of children’s books to make way for a volume of photography books. In the early stages of establishing themselves as a photography-based bookstore, Pussemier shares that there were trepidations and uncertainty amongst his customers. It was when the collaboration with Picto took place that their reputation rose. «La Comète is open to everyone. I don’t intend to turn it into a space for the elite in photography». Efforts in environmental-sustainability coincide with the recycling programs that are hosted by the city of Paris. Boxes and waste are recycled to reduce the store’s carbon footprint. Pussemier offers platforms for photographers and authors of books to utilize the platform in-store, a means to encourage their growth in the business and gain exposure. In the confinements of the Pandemic, La Comète operated online, offering a ‘click and collect’ option for its customers. Pussemier and Boscher took it upon themselves to clean and rearrange the store in the absence of their customers. «We requested photographers to sign their books to encourage sales. Publishers collaborated with the photographers and sent the books our way». La Comète intends on hosting exhibitions, workshops and events centered on the topic of photography. Their focus lies on celebrating women in photography for now. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, they are open to the possibility of hosting talks online, utilizing video chat applications.IMAGE GALLERY
Librairie La Comète
29 Rue des Récollets