Claire de Rouen

I learn that Claire de Rouen has died. For years she ran the Zwemmer bookstore devoted to photography in the Charing Cross Road. In the mid 1990s, she was instrumental in my setting up a gallery in an unused Zwemmer building. She helped lots of people like that, with boundless enthusiasm and warmth and real care for the medium and people who believed in it as she did. Latterly she ran a wonderful specialist bookshop above a sex bookstore in the same street, a tiny place which you could treat as a library as long as you had the right stuff in her eyes. Claire did more for photography in the UK than legions of second- and third-rate teachers, more than many photographers, and arts administrators and curators, and publishers, too. Claire was a huge person, and she’ll be hugely missed.

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6 thoughts on “Claire de Rouen

  1. I first met Claire when she worked at the old Photographers’ Gallery in the mid- to late 1970s, and associate her with that period of time when my own passion for photography was kindled. She lent the Charing Cross Road a sense of Left Bank sophistication and knowledgeable enthusiasm.

  2. Your 9 lines about Claire de Rouen are equivalent of 90 lines. I will try to learn more about the Zwemmer bookstore. Thank you very much

  3. I met Claire in 1989 when she was running Zwemmers on Charing Cross Road.A lovely eccentric personality, clearly passionate about her work.Once she had gotten to know me, she would watch what I was looking at, and occasionally say “Do you not have this one ?….You don’t ! Well you really should”.I have remained a customer and fan ever since. She never sold me one book, but she opened my eyes to hundreds.A truely wonderful and unique lady, and I will miss her as I would any friend.

  4. Ive only just found out this very sad news. I also first “encountered” Claire at Zwemmers…a little intimidating at first, with those wonderful cat eyes…until, I hope, a kindred spirit had been recognised and accepted.Her own shop was always an adventure, going up the staircase to her Aladdin’s Cave, with her pooch panting faithfully by her side….I always wanted to take her a gift, flowers or something, but sadly never did…my visits were only few per year, but there was always a smile of acknowldgement and a chat from the High Priestess upon my arrival.Never a hard sell, always helpful and obliging opening her glass cases of rarities for me to peruse , knowing I could rarely, if ever, afford much….I will miss Claire very much on my trips to London. A new star shines brightly in the night sky…..

  5. My late discovery of Claire’s passing saddens me. I also knew her from the late 70’s to her Aladins cave of photography. Always encouraging never forgetting. A huge figure, as Francis points out, in British photography. The comments above truly recall her wonderfull character. Indeed sadly missed.

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