Interview with the author and photographer behind Kiki & Coco in Paris—a child’s exciting adventures in the City of Light
Nina Gruener is the author of three children’s books Above San Francisco and Above New York and most recently Kiki & Coco in Paris. Stephanie Rausser is a lifestyle photographer who has had her work featured all over the world. Together, they created Kiki & Coco in Paris, the tender story of a young girl visiting Paris for the first time with her doll.
Nicki Richesin: Congratulations on your beautiful new book Kiki & Coco in Paris. I’m sure it will make a delightful gift for little girls this holiday season. Could you tell us about how you began the project and a bit about your collaboration?
Nina Gruener: Stephanie had this beautiful idea to bring a sweet rag doll along on her trip to Paris with her daughter Kiki. I didn’t see the images until a few years later when her slideshow of the trip was all over the blog world and written up in numerous magazines. I had no idea that we lived in the same town, but had a bee in my bonnet to turn these beautiful shots into a children’s book. There was something so Velveteen Rabbit about the look on Coco’s face. We finally met through Stephanie’s aunt and the rest is history…
Stephanie, you dedicated the book to the late photographer Debra McClinton who was your dear friend. Debra had such a vibrant personality. She was alive and so open to new experiences and people. Her playful spirit is perfectly captured within your book. Could you talk a little about your friendship and how it inspired this project?
Stephanie Rausser: Debra was my camera assistant for many years and she was the most upbeat, positive, and refreshing person I had ever worked with and met. Her death not only left a hole in my heart, but it also left me baffled as it all made no sense. I had never experienced anything like this and so I looked for ways to explore my grief and confusion. I had always imagined I would have a girl -somewhat like Pippi Longstocking- who would love to be photographed so I figured I would test that out. I picked the place I had most loved visiting when I was younger and I went there with my daughter. The book definitely has Debra’s spirit and creativity in it and there were days we would return to our Paris flat and the doll’s arm would have fallen off while we were out and I would sit there in tears sewing the arm back on. I just remember thinking about Debra so much on the trip. I still do.
Nina, your grandfather Robert Cameron started Cameron + Company in 1964 and you and your husband Chris took over the business after he passed away in 2009. You’ve continued the writing tradition in your family with your first book as a tribute to his legacy, a children’s adaptation of your grandfather’s Above San Francisco, and you just published Above New York. Could you tell us about his influence on your life and what you have planned for Cameron + Company in the future?
NG: My grandfather (Grok as many of us called him) always seemed larger than life. He believed that anything I touched was golden. I was once in a terrible student film and he told everyone it was headed for Sundance – it was not. But he loved us that way, with flair. And he lived his life and shaped this company in the same fashion. Every time we finish a project that I’m proud of, I think of him and how much he loved beautiful things. I am excited to keep growing our children’s line with a focus on photography and art.
Stephanie, I briefly spoke with your daughter Kiki about her favorite memories of your trip to Paris and she showed me the image from the book of her getting a new coiffeur at the hair salon. What was your favorite memory from the trip?
SR: My favorite memory of the trip was going to the fair at the Tuileries. Part of the deal was if I got to take photos of Kiki and her doll for forty-five minutes, then we would go to the fair before the sun went down. It was a great place for me to people watch and Kiki just was so excited to go there and go on the rides. We went almost every afternoon. Getting her haircut was a short second favorite memory. We took the subway across town after finding a kid’s salon and Kiki almost fell asleep in the chair. It was just the perfect thing to do on a Paris trip, a makeover.
Jess Brown created a lovely ragdoll in Coco. I understand life-sized dolls like Coco are gracing the windows of Bottega Veneta around the world. Would you consider doing a Kiki & Coco in London or Rome, or maybe San Francisco? What projects are you both working on now?
SR: I would consider it, but unfortunately Kiki is not theatrical -like Pippi- and she would prefer not to be photographed so really for me to be interested I would have wanted Kiki to do it with me. Jess thought it would be so great if we did “Kiki and Coco in Tokyo” mostly because it just sounds so great and rolls off the tongue. I have some other projects brewing but they are still in the works.
NG: I defer to Stephanie on that one! Kiki and Coco was a moment in time, and sadly, children grow up. But Stephanie’s work really does capture childlike wonder so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more concepts up her sleeve.
I am just about to tackle the children’s adaptation of Above Chicago, which will be released in the fall of 2012. But there are a few other concepts I’m toying with. I am on a constant quest to find projects that both the adult and child reader will enjoy.
Thank you so much for your time and best of luck to you both with your future projects!
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies,What I Would Tell Her: 28 Devoted Dads on Bringing Up, Holding On To, and Letting Go of Their Daughters; Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond; Crush: 26 Real-Life Tales of First Love; and The May Queen: Women on Life, Work, and Pulling it all Together in your Thirties. Her anthologies have been excerpted and praised in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Redbook, Parenting, Cosmopolitan, Bust, Salon, Daily Candy, and Babble.