Cabinet of Curiosities

Christiane Celle celebrates the expansion of her bookstore chain with an exhibition of Lyle Owerko's portraits of the Samburu.

Text by Mengly Taing

Photography bookstores are rare, even in New York City. That is why Clic Bookstore & Gallery is such a find. Despite the morphing retail landscape along the city’s main shopping districts, the bookstore is expanding to three more locations later this month. Because, even when everything appears to be changing, some things always stay the same – things like good photography, which never seems to go out of style.

Christiane Celle should know. The French-born stylist-turned-designer-turned-retailer has a tasteful eye for the exotic, parlaying her success with Calypso, the clothing boutique she founded on St Barths in 1995, into a well-curated bookstore, dedicated to the art of picture taking. Celle opened the original Clic last October.

The small store in SoHo features a large selection of rare, autographed and special and limited-edition books from international publishers, large and small. Among the wide array of titles featured are works by Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts, and Matthew Rolston.

Celle, who is married to fashion photographer Antoine Verglas, marks the opening of her three new stores with an opening exhibition of Lyle Owerko’s portraits of the Samburu, a nomadic warrior tribe also known as “The Butterfly People.” A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Owerko’s photos will go towards the Thorn Tree Project, which supports the Sereolipi Nomadic Education Foundation. Owerko’s photography coincides with Celle’s future plans for Clic, which were partly inspired by a recent trip to Kenya.

“I am working on a special photography category about travel, landscapes and nature of Third World countries,” the avid traveler said. “Specifically India, Morocco, Africa.” Celle, who met Owerko when he stopped by her bookstore to show her his portfolio, said she instantly fell in love with his sensibility and his generous spirit. “I am very drawn to the simple and pure way he has photographed the different generations of people.”

What was the last book you purchased for yourself?
Christiane Celle: Yesterday, I bought Madagascar by Gian Paolo Barbieri.

Do you have any fond memories from your youth about bookstores or libraries?
Christiane Celle: I volunteered at a library when I was in the sixtth grade at my public school in Cannes. I can still remember the smell of the books.

How do you go about selecting the books for Clic?
Christiane Celle: I love to work with smaller companies like Radius, Little Bear Press, Powershovel, Twin Palms, Pond Press, as they are presenting very interesting work. I also love the big German companies like Steidl and Hatje Cantz.

Is the editing process similar to that of running a clothing boutique?
Christiane Celle: It is the same in the way that you have to edit the line. There are many books today on the market. I try to go for the very high-end books that are original with great quality and printing and which are more one of a kind. I try to avoid overly commercial titles.

What makes a good photograph?
Christiane Celle: A good photograph is one that gives you goosebumps. It makes the subject come alive and the viewer understand the feeling of the subject.

“The Samburu” by Lyle Owerko will be on display at Clic Gallery & Bookstore at 424 Broome Street beginning April 8th. Click here for more information.

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