A jaunty fake, with velvet eyes and the crooner's voice, a hollow macho. When some moved to psychiatric hospitals or left for the front, he decided link a smooth succession of sunny days on the beach at Brighton (near Coney Island). His photographs appeared to have been taken from television of the 1950s, as later revisited by Cassavetes, Waters or Lynch. One immediately thinks of Diane Arbus, at the sight of sunburnt retirees with airs of cult starlets and a backdrop of bodybuilders. It was his ability to straightforwardly present the absurd triumph of swollen muscles and the obvious defeat of withered flesh that seemed key to his paradoxical and ferocious moralistic work. "Suffering comes only from the inability to accept oneself," he confided as he went through the retrospective devoted to him by the city of Paris in 1994.
Seymour Jacobs was born 27 March 1931, in Brooklyn, and had resided in France in the early 1950s. He also specialised in French literature, which he taught. Being against McCarthyism, he will also be tried for refusing to salute the American flag in the middle of the Vietnam war. From 1983, and his exile in Paris, he renounced his Beach photographs, 'chaos of tragic women and ridiculous men', to focus on the anxiety of "complex nudes, revealing a strange complicity with difficult to identify motivations and a distress this time in my own right." Often quoting the moral generosity of Stendhal and Proust, he did not understand that some could see cruelty or contempt in his shots, and answered: "Only the weak see cruelty in what I do, stupidity and lack of generosity do not interest me." He who confided his indifference to youth ("it has no magic, and the body does not matter so much") died Sunday in Paris, at the age of 67.