He photographed Mick Jagger, Jacques Brel and Claude François. At 87, Charles Bébert, an “image hunter” based in Nice, released his very first book, which revisits in 75 photos the decades from 1960 to 1980, the golden age of glamor on the Côte d’Azur. Now retired, this colorful character owes his surname to the nickname of his father, Albert Sebban, whom everyone called “Bébert the photographer”, in Oran, when Algeria was still colonized by France.

Charlie started the profession at the age of 14, in 1950, in the thriving family business. With his record player, a portable device for listening to vinyl, very popular from the end of the 1950s to the end of the 1970s, installed in his convertible Renault Florida, Charles Bébert did not go unnoticed in the streets of Oran. Jacques Brel, who came on tour, will even shoot a playback clip in this car while Charles drives.

Miraculously survived the massacre of Europeans in Oran, on July 5, 1962, Algeria’s Independence Day, embarked on a boat for France with only his Foca, a camera “even better than Leica”, as luggage. Charles arrived in Marseille in 1962 before settling in Nice, where the Promenade des Anglais reminded him of the seafront of his hometown. There, the photographer must start from scratch. In 1964 he opened a photography store in the center of Nice, called “Chasseur d’images”.

In the 1960s, Charles began by immortalizing weddings and communions then found collaborations with the press and photo agencies. From his Algerian years he kept some contacts with the singers Brel, Charles Aznavour and Gilbert Bécaud, enough to get him back on track. It is also a new generation of stars, from Alain Delon to the Rolling Stones via Jean-Paul Belmondo who became his friend or Claude François for whom he will be the press officer for ten years, whom he will hunt down when he leaves at the very luxurious Negresco hotel, facing the Mediterranean, or at Nice airport, when it’s not them who call him for a shoot.

“Bébel” and “Charlie”, a beautiful bond

“I was not a paparazzi, or an honest paparazzi,” he explains to AFP in his old shop, whose son Stéphane has recreated the frontage of the time, and which is now used as a family office.

When Charles Bébert surprises Mike Jagger with a woman that the latter does not wish to appear publicly, Charles agrees to put his camera away, he says. It paid off, because he was later allowed to enter the church for the rock star’s wedding to Bianca Perez Morena in Saint-Tropez, when 250 of his colleagues were standing around outside. In 1976, he refused the juicy sum of 10 million francs which was offered to him to take a photo of Claude François on his deathbed, he remembers.

Modest, Charles Bébert did not really push for the publication of this photographic collection and seems, on the surface, little sensitive to the honors being paid to him today with signing sessions in Nice this week or soon in a department store in the Left Bank in Paris. “What interested me in this job was just to earn a living to raise my children and make a good little retirement,” he confides simply.

Charles Bébert’s book, which can be obtained in a few rare bookstores, is mainly sold online at: www.justanidea.com and especially available in Paris, at Bon Marché Rive Gauche until April 21, 2024. In this Parisian department store, we will discover the “Chasseur d’images” window at 15 rue Dalpozzo, in Nice, the photographer’s boutique, identically recreated, with vintage prints by Jean Gabin, Brigitte Bardot, Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, Paul McCartney, Romy Schneider… Charles Bébert will exhibit for the first time in the capital, some of his most iconic photos: 14 prints (60×60 / 50×60

The idea for this anthology published in 500 copies by Just an Idea Books came from Sarah Andelman, when the co-founder of the Parisian concept store Colette discovered, last year in Vanity Fair, a photo by Charles Bébert in which Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin poses, all smiles, on a beach in Nice in 1972. She figures prominently in this collector’s collection.