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Photographer William Klein's best shot

'I wanted to capture the royal wedding's atmosphere of togetherness. The English are very exotic to me – they sing'

Click on the image to see this picture in full

The idea of England getting so excited about the royal wedding amused me. An English friend told me there would be people dressed up like the Queen, so I decided to travel to London and take photographs. I think the concept of a monarchy is ridiculous, but I was interested in seeing the crowds – not just Kate, even if she is pretty.

I took the Eurostar from Paris and hired a bicycle rickshaw: at my age, it was a good way of getting around. When we got to Hyde Park, the atmosphere reminded me of la Fête de l'Humanité, the annual Communist party festival – a huge crowd of people who felt at home and that they could do no wrong. They were funny and touching, arriving with their picnics, yelling "Kiss! Kiss!" at the big screen. The BBC was MCing what was effectively the biggest kissing event in history.

After the kisses came the dancing; it was like a huge birthday party. At around 4pm copies of the Evening Standard arrived at Trafalgar Square: "Sealed with a kiss" was the headline. I wanted to take a picture of one of the police officers reading the paper, but they refused. Then their commanding officer said: "Make the man happy!" and finally one of them posed for me.

As a photographer, the royal wedding was the sort of public event I feel an affinity with. I like festivals of all kinds: in 1969 I made a film about the first Pan-African festival in Algiers, which celebrated the countries that had been liberated 10 years earlier. There was a tremendous feeling of kinship. In London, I again wanted to capture this atmosphere of togetherness, using this montage.

The English are very exotic to me. For instance, they sing. At one point, we met a family with an elaborate picnic, and what touched me was that the men were singing Let It Be while they packed everything away. Later, we visited a few pubs. One of them was decorated with balloons, and there was a band singing Andrews Sisters songs from the 1940s, which was when I landed in Europe [from New York] for the first time. Everybody knew all the words. You'd never get that in a cafe in Paris.


Born: New York, 1928.

Studied: Sociology in New York; then at the Sorbonne in Paris after the war. In 1949, he studied painting with Fernand Léger.

Influences: Léger, Walker Evans, Man Ray.

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