A book of intimate, evocative photographs taken by Paul Child, France is a Feast documents how he and his wife Julia explored France, its people, and la cuisine Francaise between 1948-54.

Living in Paris and Marseille — where he worked at a cultural attaché – inspired Julia’s seminal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), and her career as a celebrity author and TV chef. Julia and I wrote about this in her memoir, My Life in France (2006). This new book is a visual extension of that story, told from Paul’s perspective. “If variety is the spice of life,” he said, “then I have led a curry of a life.”

Julia called her husband “the Mad Photographer,” because he rarely left the house without one or two, or sometimes three, cameras slung around his neck. She would often accompany him, and use her long arms to shield the sun from his lens. “Paris was wonderfully walkable, and it was a natural subject for Paul. He caught the spirit of the city, and you could feel his love for the subjects,” Julia recalled. “When one follows the artist’s eye, one sees unexpected treasures in so many seemingly ordinary scenes.”

Though he worked as a diplomat, Paul devoted much of his free time to photography. His eye was drawn to portraits, architectural compositions, landscapes, and abstractions. He had his own sensibility, but knew many of the leading photographers of the day, and was no doubt influenced by their work. The photos in France is a Feast range from intimate snapshots of Julia at home, to “decisive moment” street documentary in the manner of Cartier-Bresson, cityscapes a la Brassai, and broad landscapes and carefully arranged compositions in the spirit of Edward Weston. Paul befriended Edward Steichen, who chose six of Paul’s images for the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

Not surprisingly, Julia was one of Paul’s favorite subjects: he captured her at work and at play a decade before she gained fame as “The French Chef.” In these photographs, he captured Julia in her gestational phase, when she was an obscure diplomatic wife who experienced “a flowering of the soul” in French kitchens, and was in the process of becoming “Julia Child.”

Paul’s photography remained relatively obscure during his lifetime (he died in 1994, at age 92). But the publication of Julia’s memoir My Life in France in 2006, and illustrated with Paul’s photographs, led to a reappraisal of his talent. The public’s enthusiastic response convinced me to collaborate with the photo curator Katie Pratt (who grew up with the Childs in Cambridge, MA) on this book.

France is a Feast is illustrated with 225 of Paul’s black and white images, most of which have not been widely seen before.

To support independent stores in your community visit IndieBound. The book is also on sale at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.


“Thoroughly delicious… Comprised of 225 black-and-white photographs by Paul Child, the husband of Julia Child, taken during the couple’s time in France beginning in 1948, this intimate photo album delivers mesmerizing visual addenda to Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France. Zeroing in on postwar Paris, the book covers the couple’s early years in France and yields a unique perspective on postwar Europe as well as on the backstory of the woman whose name is synonymous with French cuisine in 20th-century America. The collection includes photos of Julia’s days at the Cordon Bleu with fellow chefs, as well as snapshots of her at work amid pots and pans in the tiny kitchen of the couple’s Paris apartment. In other photos, Paul plays with shadows and angles while shooting the streets of Paris or the fields of the French countryside. There are also the more everyday traveler’s shots featuring a leggy Julia that illuminate the love story between the photographer and his muse.”

Publishers Weekly

“While it seems we've already seen photographs of every centimeter of Paris from every angle, it's a pleasure to look at the postwar city through Child's viewfinder. A trained draftsman, painter and lithographer, he had strong theories about composition and light, as well as a desire to distill ‘some aspect of each place,’ whether it be fishermen on the Seine, geometrically framed by the overlapping arches of a bridge, or an old woman unwittingly anchoring an angular shadow in the South of France. As accomplished as the photographs are, and as engaging a character as Paul Child is revealed to be, the real draw here will undoubtedly be his intimate portraits of Julia Child before she was, well, Julia Child. What ultimately makes this enjoyable celebration of his work an important part of the Child archive is that it illuminates the third side of that fabled triangle, connecting us to his love of Julia – and France.”

New York Times Book Review

“A labor of love, about a love affair... It's extraordinary to see a collection of photographs in which a fiercely talented and accomplished woman is presented with humor, admiration, and love. Julia called Paul 'the man who is always there.' He took pictures at every turn, leaving a record of the streets of Paris and Marseille, of his wife, and of his own ghostly, beloved presence, reflecting the light that she cast.”

The New Yorker

“To see [Julia Child’s] bare legs splayed on a rooftop, eating and laughing with friends, felt like meeting an entirely different person―a person you immediately want to get drunk and make a clafoutis with... But the book is so much more than black and white slides of a family vacation... Through Paul’s photographs you see Julia ‘before she was Julia,’ and it's tons of fun.”

Bon Appetít

“[Paul Child] was a master of light, capturing the subtle details of shadows and highlights, creating photos rather than taking them… Julia makes many appearances in the book and is clearly his muse.”


“Before Julia Child became Julia Child, she and her husband, Paul, a career diplomat, lived from 1948 until 1954 in Paris and Marseille. In addition to his work in the civil service, Paul was an accomplished photographer who continually documented his surroundings. France Is a Feast… captures the bygone world the couple inhabited.”

Travel + Leisure