Patti Smith

“He took a picture for me in a photo booth, wearing the peacoat I gave him and peering from beneath an old French naval cap; it has always been my favorite photograph of him.”

Patti Smith, Just Kids, Harper Collins
“There were about thirteen hundred yen and four photographs inside the inner flap of the Moleskine. I laid the pictures out on the tray table: an image of my daughter, Jesse, in front of Café Hugo in Place des Vosges, two outtakes of the incense burner at the grave of Akutagawa, and one of the poet Sylvia Plath’s headstone in the snow. I tried to write something of Jesse but couldn’t, as her face echoed her father’s and the proud palace where the ghosts of our old life dwell. I slipped three of the pictures back into the pocket, then focused on Sylvia in the snow. It was not a good picture, the result of a kind of winter penitence. I decided to write of Sylvia. I wrote to give myself something to read.”

Patti Smith, M Train, Vintage
“I dried off in the sun and drank some of the tea, which was very sweet. There were many places to sit, but I was attracted to an ornate white plastic chair set against a bramble bush. I took two shots and then gave my camera to Lenny and he photographed me sitting in it. Back at the table not more than a few feet away I quickly unpeeled the Polaroids; I was dissatisfied with my framing of the chair and turned to take another but it was gone. Lenny and I were astonished. No one was around yet the chair had vanished within moments.
—This is crazy, said Lenny.
—This is Tangier, said Karim.
Karim went inside the café and I followed. The café was empty. I left my shot of the white chair in the center of the table.
—This is also Tangier, I said.”

Patti Smith, M Train, Vintage


“I photographed the grave of Rimbaud when I was twenty-six. The pictures were not exceptional but contained the mission itself, which I had long forgotten. Rimbaud died in a Marseille hospital in 1891 at the age of thirty-seven. His last wish was to return to Abyssinia where he had been a coffee trader. He was dying and it was not possible for him to be carried aboard ship for the long journey. In his delirium he imagined himself on horseback in the high Abyssinian plains. I had a string of nineteenth-century blue glass trade beads from Harar and I got it in mind to take them to him. In 1973 I went to his gravesite in Charleville, near the bank of the Meuse River, and pressed the beads deep into the soil of a large urn that stood before his tombstone. Something of his beloved country near to him. I hadn’t connected the beads with the stones I’d gathered for Genet, but I supposed they originated from the same romantic impulse. Presumptuous, perhaps, though not erring. I have since returned and the urn is no longer there, but I believe I am still the same person; no amount of change in the world can change that.”

Patti Smith, M Train, Vintage
“There were days, rainy gray days, when the streets of Brooklyn were worthy of a photograph, every window the lens of a Leica, the view grainy and immobile.”

Patti Smith, Just Kids, Harper Collins
“The boy quietly sat where I buried the stones and pulled petals off the flowers, sprinkling them on his trousers, staring at us with big black eyes. Before we left he handed me the remnants of a silk rosebud, faded pink, which I placed in the matchbox. We gave the old woman some money and she closed the gate. The boy seemed sad to see his strange playmates depart. The return was a sleepy one. Every so often I would look at my pictures. Eventually I would place the Polaroids of Genet’s grave in a box with the graves of others. But in my heart I knew the miracle of the rose was not the stones, nor could be found in the photographs, but was within the cells of the child guardian, Genet’s prisoner of love.”

Patti Smith, M Train, Vintage
“Passing through the portal of angels, one can easily locate where Bertolt Brecht is buried. I noticed that some of the bullet holes had been filled in with white plaster since my last visit. The temperature was dropping and a light snow was falling. I sat before Brecht’s grave and hummed the lullaby Mother Courage sings over the body of her daughter. I sat as the snow fell, imagining Brecht writing his play. Man gives us war. A mother profits from it and pays with her children; they fall one by one like wooden pins at the end of a bowling alley. As I was leaving I took a photograph of one of the guardian angels. The bellows of my camera were wet with snow and somewhat crushed on the left side, which resulted in a black crescent blotting a portion of the wing. I took another of the wing in close-up. I envisioned printing it much larger on matte paper, and then I would write the words of the lullaby on its white curve. I wondered if these words caused Brecht to weep as he wrung the heart of the mother who was not as heartless as she would lead us to believe. I slipped the photographs into my pocket. My mother was real and her son was real. When he died she buried him. Now she is dead. Mother Courage and her children, my mother and her son. They are all stories now.”

Patti Smith, M Train, Vintage
“My work area was a jumble of manuscript pages, musty classics, broken toys, and talismans. I tacked pictures of Rimbaud, Bob Dylan, Lotte Lenya, Piaf, Genet, and John Lennon over a makeshift desk where I arranged my quills, my inkwell, and my notebooks—my monastic mess.”

Patti Smith, Just Kids, Harper Collins
“Robert was concerned with how to make the photograph, and I with how to be the photograph.”

Patti Smith, Just Kids, Harper Collins