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My photos of 'Swinging Sixties' spark memories in French care homes

Photos from celebrity photographer Jean-Marie Périer, France’s David Bailey, are displayed in care homes to end ‘terribly sad’ blank walls

France in the 60s

Jean-Marie Périer (left) was called France’s David Bailey; Bridget Bardot and pop star friend Sylvie Vartan; Johnny Hallyday driving his Ferrari 250 GT California in Paris Pic: Frederic Maligne / Jean-Marie Périer

Photos from the Swinging Sixties are helping people in care homes relive their youth thanks to a renowned photographer’s idea to give residents happy memories in their last days.

Jean-Marie Périer was called France’s David Bailey for the way he caught pop stars, actors and models as they relaxed, sharing playful glimpses of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, Françoise Hardy, Johnny Hallyday and Yves Saint Laurent.

All they have are memories

He was “shocked” and left “terribly sad” after visiting an old friend in an Ehpad care home as it was “white everywhere, nothing personal”, so he offered an exhibition of photos to help. 

“Residents had lost everything: their homes, their belongings, everything familiar. They were just in these blank surroundings waiting for the end.”

He chose 41 photos and said: “People who are now in Ehpads might have had these posters in their rooms when they were young. 

“The selection is designed to bring back happy memories and to give visitors a talking point.”

Now 82, Périer says he knows a bit about old age. “In the end, the only important things are memories and poetry. That’s all you have left. 

“I write a journal on Instagram and Facebook which has 127,000 followers. I publish stories and memories. 

“It’s the most important thing to teach young people: hang on to your memories.”

Unrivalled access to stars

He first showed the photos at the Terrasses de Mont­viguier Ehpad in Figeac, Lot, then made them available free to care homes worldwide on request. 

Around 150 have asked for copies through his colleague Delphine Charon at  

She also helps Ehpads find funding for printing and framing.

As a photographer with Salut les Copains magazine, Jean-Marie Périer had unrivalled access to the big stars.

“The Sixties was amazing. An explosion of optimism. For the first time, teenagers had an identity with their own music, fashion and lifestyle. 

“People weren’t afraid. If I wanted to photograph someone, I would just phone them and they’d say yeah, sure.

The party is over

“Parents lived through the fear and deprivation of two wars, but suddenly their children wanted life in full colour.

“Today’s young are nostalgic because we’re not just living through endless bad news but the constant backdrop is saving the planet. The party is over.”

He lives in Villeneuve, Aveyron, and set up its Maison de la Photo with 200 of his pictures. 

He no longer takes photos, saying “it’s too serious now”, but has not stopped working as he publishes books of photos, writes and gives talks. You can see more photos on his website.

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