In Montpellier, French photography in the (rear) viewfinder

From the barricades of the Latin Quarter in the viewfinder of Claude Raimond-Dityvon in May 68 to the fall of the Berlin wall captured by Stéphane Leroy in June 1989. Between these two dates, which punctuate the “Metamorphosis” exhibition, French photography will experience a profound change: “In less than a generation, photography has become a major cultural fact », underlines the art historian Michel Poivert, co-curator with Anna Grumbach and Gilles Mora of this retrospective.

When photography becomes an art

Instead of a chronological unfolding, a thematic route around new forms of information, representations of the body in freedom, the exploration of everyday life, the effects of the economic crisis or the transformations of the contemporary landscape was preferred… So many entries which offer a panorama of the diversity of views and the richness of the production of those years, which saw photography emerge from the pages of the press to reach the shelves of beautiful books and the picture rails of museums and galleries of contemporary art.

No less than 240 works by 73 photographers, from some forty different sources, institutional (Frac, museums, art center) or private (galleries, collectors), are presented on the walls of the People’s Pavilion in Montpelier.

The exhibition opens with nocturnal black and white photos by Gilles Caron and Claude Raimond-Dityvon or daytime color photos by Janine Niépce, taken in May 68 as close as possible to the demonstrators. Facing the angry students, the rockers followed by Alain Dister, the Black jackets by Yan Morvan or the Rebels by Philippe Chancel present the new faces of French youth a few years apart. “After 1968, French society was in full effervescence, the counter-culture of youth, rock and travel called for new perspectives: Like gonzo journalism (1)finished the search for objectivity, the image writes a story in the first person”, says Gilles Mora.

American inspired

Distancing themselves from post-war humanist photography, this new generation drew inspiration from American photography exhibited at the American Center in Paris or at the fledgling Rencontres internationales de la photographie in Arles. Spontaneity, authenticity, subjectivity allow photographers to write new autobiographical writings and claim to be authors: the sensual and sensitive images of Bernard Plossu’s travels rub shoulders with Ratings by Raymond Depardon where he associates with his reportage photographs in countries at war, his feelings and personal memories.

The gaze also rests on the world of everyday life: whether in the privacy of the home, in the office or in the neighbourhood, the close environment is transformed into a space that is as much physical as it is mental. Far from being picturesque, Claude Batho, Bruno Réquillart or Bernard Descamps question the presence of things and the poetics of forms.

Deconstructing traditional photographic genres, claiming a singular look, the work of this new wave of photographers nonetheless crosses the entire social field: relationship to modernity and consumption, liberation of women and bodies, interbreeding and identities. plurals, metamorphosis of the landscape, rising unemployment, energy issues and ecological concerns… This retrospective look shows us that today’s major issues were already in the sights of the 1970s. 70′. New French Photography (2) under the direction of Claude Nori allows us to come back to this abundant period.


Some key dates

1970. Creation of the International Photography Meetings in Arles by photographer Lucien Clergue, writer Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette.

1971. Creation by Jean-Claude Lemagny of the Gallery of Photographers at the BnF.

1976. Creation in Lyon of the National Photography Foundation under the direction of Pierre de Fenoÿl.

nineteen eighty one. Release of the first issue of Photography notebooksa magazine founded by Gilles Mora, Claude Nori and Bernard Plossu.

1982. Creation in Paris of the National Center of Photography directed by Robert Delpire.

1984. Datar photographic mission, public commission under the artistic direction of François Hers, to 29 photographers to represent the French landscape of the 1980s.

(1) Gonzo journalism is both a method of investigation and a style of journalistic writing that does not claim objectivity, the journalist being one of the protagonists of his report and writing it in the first person.

(2) 70′. New French Photography, Carole Naggar, Coline Oslina, Claude Nori, Hervé Legoff, Ed. Contrejour, 224 pages, €40.

“Metamorphosis. Photography in France, 1968-1989”, People’s Pavilion, Photographic Art Space of the City of Montpellier (Hérault), free admission until January 15, 2023. Catalog Ed. Hazan, 144 pages, €24.95.

Source : BBN NEWS

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