zaterdag 19 mei 2012

Paris Mortel the Classic Photobooks of Paris from the 1950s to Today Photography

Two pages from Moï Ver’s Paris (1931, deluxe facsimile by Steidl in 2009).

The front cover of Moï Ver’s Paris (1931, deluxe facsimile by Steidl in 2009).
A significant cluster of the photobooks focus the camera-eye on the city of Paris as their subject. Moï Ver’s extraordinary book of 80 black and white photographs simply entitled Paris, published in an edition of 1000 copies in 1931 and in a deluxe facsimile by Steidl in 2009 (acquired by the Library of the new Photographic Books Collection at the Department of Special Collections OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS), is exemplary of this exhilarating trend: the front cover alone juxtaposes the smokestacks of factories vertiginously looming against a classical stone façade. Ver (born Moshé Raviv-Vorobeichic in Lithuania) unhesitatingly and cinematically blends the ancient with the modern, art and industry in his full-page montages, where the dynamic modern city takes shape before our very eyes. Ver’s book fulfils the lauding of photomontage by Raoul Hausmann in 1931, where the Dada impresario observed how the “material of photography” was used “to combine heterogeneous, often contradictory elements, figurative and spatial, into a new whole […] as new to the eye as it was to the mind.” Pointing to the significance of ideological positions in interwar modernism where photography had to be held to account for its education of the eye and the mind, Ver’s montages are a stark contrast to the snapshot-style, blunt-edged documents of a less glamorous, impoverished Parisian street life taken with a hand-held Leica camera by the Soviet writer and photographer Ilya Ehrenburg and compiled into a photobook entitled My Paris (1933), with book design and two montages by El Lissitzky and layout by Alexander Brodsky. The Steidl facsimile edition (2005) of this small-format, little-noticed photobook is one of a growing number of new editions available at more affordable prices which now accompany the unique first editions and facilitate access by students to such objects.

Dustjacekt of Robert Doisneau’s La Banlieue de Paris (1949).
A different kind of montage provides the photographically illustrated dustjacket for Robert Doisneau’s La Banlieue de Paris, acquired from the first edition run of 1949. Several separate images – a row of forbidding high-rise apartment blocks, a long line of people spread out along a hillside spectating an unseen event, and the Eiffel Tower rising up against a cloudy sky – combine to bewilder the viewer, as does the name of Blaise Cendrars – the renowned avant-garde writer and adventurer – in large bold type on the front cover. Now more famous than his friend and author of the introduction, Doisneau’s bittersweet observations of Parisian streetlife and local events such as the bicycle race through a quarry in his home suburb of Gentilly which features in a double-page spread within (when we see it, we realise that this was one element of the cover montage), inaugurate a new epoch of photobook creativity. A modern-day reincarnation of the roving urban wanderer, the photographer as flâneur searches out the signs of the collision between old and new in the city streets and back alleys, the revelations of the hidden and secretive lives of its anonymous inhabitants, as well as moments of everyday life seized out of time’s continuum, with a tender empathy.

Four of the new books acquired for the Photographic Book Collection: Willy Ronis's Belleville-Menilmontant (1954), and Doisneau's La Banlieue de Paris (1949), Les parisennes tels qu'ils sont (1954) and Instantanés de Paris (1955).

Front cover of Pierre Tarcali's A Fleur de Seine, with an introduction by René Clair (1954).
Doisneau was just one of a whole host of postwar photographers working in France who made the photobook a top priority. Enabling an examination of Doisneau’s career as a photobook creator, La Banlieue de Paris was followed up by Les parisens tels qu’ils sont (1954, acquired in a first edition), with a preface by the journalist of the Parisian streets, Robert Giraud and writer Michel Ragon. A year later Instantanés de Paris (1955, acquired in a large-size first edition with an intact acetate cover and a peface by Cendrars) presented 148  black and white photographs organised, as Doisneau preferred, into groups or smaller photo-essays, entitled thematically: Love, Work, Children, Gazes … . These three books are joined by the key photobook by his French colleague in the Rapho agency and the Groupe des XVWilly Ronis, whose photobook Belleville-Menilmontant is seen in its first edition of 1954 with preface by the photo-critic who coined the idea of the ‘social fantastic’ to describe many of the photographs in these books conjoining the real with the surreal and poetic, Pierre MacOrlan, 1954. The Library has also bought this book in its fourth, “definitive” edition of 1999 with a different selection of images by Ronis and a text by the detective writer, Didier Daeninckx. The significance of the writers and poets whose texts frame the photobooks is further emphasised in the collaborative photobook overseen by screenwriter Pierre Tarcali and introduced by René Clair, the sweetly-titledA Fleur de Seine (1954); and the preface by the Surrealist associate, poet and scriptwriter for Marcel Carné’s great classic film, Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), Jacques Prévert, for Peter Cornelius’s Couleur de Paris (1961).

Slipcase and front cover of Kishin Shinoyama’s Paris (1977).
Slipping between the protected library archive of ‘rare books’, piled into the open shelves of art and photography books, or simply going unperceived as photographic illustration within a miscellaneous variety of scientific, artistic and periodical publications, the University Library has recently and seriously turned its attention to what is increasingly seen as an independent category – photographic publications – and even a medium in its own right, the photobook. Slowly, over the course of the twentieth century, the photobook has been validated as an object, or even a medium, meriting its own special attention from photographers, designers and collectors, and now, from historians.

The front covers of the three Robert Delpire published books: Robert Doisneau’s Les parisennes tels qu’ils sont (1954), Henri Cartier-Bresson’sLes danses à Bali (1954) and George Rodger’s Le Village des noubas (1955).
Amongst the  French “humanist” photographers was, of course, Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose photobooks Images à la sauvette (1952, translated as ‘The Decisive Moment’) and Les Européens (1955) never cease to impress. Cartier-Bresson’s Les danses à Bali (Dances at Bali, 1954) photobook, together with George Rodger’s Le Village des noubas (the Village of the Nubas, 1955) and Doisneau’s  Les parisens tels qu’ils sont (see previous post) are a trilogy of small-format photobooks published by a newcomer to the Parisian world of editions,Robert Delpire (for more on these three books, seeElisabeth Dearden’s Highlight post from last year). With encyclopedic ambitions, Delpire took the initiative and founded a publishing house in 1951 with Pierre Faucheaux which specialised in the expensive but passionate production of photobooks; Delpire is perhaps best known today for taking on Robert Frank’s now-famous photobook, Les Américains (1958).

A plate from Kishin Shinoyama’s Paris (1977).

The front cover of Krass Clement’sParis: carnet de recherche (2010).
Paris is newly hectic, blurred and cinematic in the highly personal photographic visions of two Dutch photographers, Ed van der Elsken and Johan van der Keuken, and in the saturated colour work of the Japanese photographer Kishin Shinoyama (Paris, 1977, pictured above) and the gathering-together by Danish photographer in Krass Clement of his images from the ‘60s and 70’s in Paris: carnet de recherche (2010); not to forget William Klein, who after an amazing photobook debut with New York (published by Editions du Seuil in Paris in 1956) had his Parisian images collated for the first U.S. edition of Paris + Klein in 2002. Turning the photobook towards a self-reflective, “stream-of-consciousness” narrative style, and serialised in Picture Post (whose archive is held as a recently acquired electronic resource) prior to its book publication, Ed van der Elsken’s Een Liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint Germain des Prés (1956; in English as Love on the Left Bank and held by the Library in a recent reprint) diaristically documents the bohemian life of his friends and loves amongst the postwar youth in the “existentialist” Left Bank neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des Prés.

Plate 21 from Johan Van der Keuken’s Paris mortel (1963).
Paris mortel by Van der Keuken, held by the Library in a rare and under-studied first edition from 1963, equally portrays the city and its denizens with an off-hand, jazz-like perspective. The recent exhibition displaying all of the hitherto unseen prints leading up to one of Paris mortel’s most iconic single-images, Quartorze juillet (Amsterdam, 2010), and rated equally as a significant photobook, has also been added to the collection. In both books, we see how much Keuken’s film-making studies in Paris between 1956 and 1958, as well as William Klein’s work, impacted upon his radical aesthetic in both political and artistic ways to present a vision of Paris intended to disabuse us from our romanticism.

Pages 8 and 9 from Peter Cornelius’s Couleur de Paris (1962).
As recent scholars such as Shelley Rice, Michel Frizot, Gerry Badger and the photographer and collector Martin Parr, have noted, the book is seemingly a ‘natural’ format or ‘housing’ for the photograph; within it images are sequenced into narratives with which we become involved in an intimate encounter. But when we look more closely at Ed van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank, we observe a visual dynamic contrasting full-page bleeds with small pictures, where the designer Jurriaan Schrofer paced images in a filmic rush and with a flashback narrative. In Johan van der Keuken’s Paris mortel, a method of chance-driven, ‘random’ sequencing permitted new image conjunctions to emerge; as Parr notes, the photographer made no less than three maquettes before the publisher (C de Boer Jr., Hilversum) agreed to go to press. In Couleur de Paris, Peter Cornelius’s use of a new colour film, Agfa CN17, revolutionises our previously monochrome vision, while Shinoyama deepens the colour dramatically to re-envision Atget as never before. The medium-specificity of photography as a reproducible visual technology, dependent on the printer’s ability to replicate by gravure and paper quality; the invisible skills of the photo-editor who selects and sequences the images; the designer who thinks about the perfect mis-en-page layout, scale, bindings, fonts and typefaces, jacket design and reproduction quality; the collaboration of the writer, who may be famous and a selling-point, whose text might be integrated with the images or segregated; all add up to a publishing history of a fundamentally hybrid medium whose elements cannot be separated from the content of the images – itself endlessly re-interpretable according to the viewer’s historicised gaze.

See also 

Ah ... Les Parisiennes Juliette Gréco Brigitte Bardot Gare du Nord Dutch photographers in Paris 1900-1968 Photography ...

Eyes on Paris shows how artists engaged in photography (French and immigrants alike) saw, experienced and captured Paris with the camera. The artists’ gaze oscillates between documentary interest and subjective perception, a chronicler’s duty and the projection of personal feelings. Around 400 photographic works by important representatives of 20th-century photography enter into a dialog with epoch-making books, portfolios or rare portfolio works. After all, no other city in the world has been the subject of as many outstanding publications as has Paris: from Atget to Ed van der Elsken, from Robert Doisneau to William Klein.

With works by Eugène Atget, Laure Albin Guillot, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Stefania Beretta, Emmanuel Boudot-Lamotte, Brassaï, Mario von Bucovich, René Burri, Peter Cornelius, Robert Doisneau, Ed van der Elsken, Ilja Ehrenburg, Marc Foucault, Shinzo Fukuhara, Jean Claude Gautrand, René Groebli, Andreas Gursky, Ernst Hahn, Fritz Henle, Lucien Hervé, Roger Henrard, Candida Höfer, Birgit Hvidkjær, Pierre Jahan, Tore Johnson, Günes Karabuda, André Kertész, Johan van der Keuken, Ihei Kimura, William Klein, Germaine Krull, Andréas Lang, René Maltête, André Martin, Moï Ver, Patrice Molinard, Nicolas Moulin, Albert Monier, Jeanine Niepce, Pierre Peissi, René-Jacques, Bettina Rheims, Willy Ronis, Sanford H. Roth, Roger Schall, Jarret Schecter, Kishin Shinoyama, Otto Steinert, Louis Stettner, Christer Strömholm, Bettina Rheims, Emmanuel Sougez, Romain Urhausen, Yvon, Thomas Zacharias.

Plate 6 from Johan Van der Keuken’s Paris mortel (1963).
Natalie Adamson is a scholar of twentieth-century culture in France. She is Senior Lecturer in the School of Art History, where she teaches Honours and postgraduate classes on interwar modernist photography in Europe and postwar art and politics in France

5 opmerkingen:

Sherlito zei

Great collection of photobooks from classic to modern. I so love those classic pictures. Thanks for sharing..

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Sherlito zei

Great collection of photobooks from classic to modern. I so love those classic pictures. Thanks for sharing..

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Jay Michael zei

Nice collections. I do like the classic ones.

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rexan villaver zei

Awesome collection. I'd love more in classic presentation.

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