Photography, Level 3
It seems fitting that Paris, the so-called city of light, should play host to a major development in the invention of photography – a medium that has itself traditionally depended on light. On the 7th January 1839, a triumphant announcement was made in Paris that Louis Daguerre had successfully imprinted images from life on unique copper plates he called ‘daguerreotypes’. From these pioneering beginnings, French photographers have, at various points in photographic history, become creative leaders in the field. This exhibition is drawn from the NGV’s permanent collection and highlights two such notable moments: namely, the pioneering early days from the 1850s to 1900s and the development of human interest photography in the 1920s and 1930s.
For the artists in this exhibition, the city and people of Paris and its environs have been the varied focus of their attention. Early photographs range from an erotic stereographic image of a Parisian model, to images showing Baron von Haussmann’s controversial changes to the urban plan of Paris in 1861; remarkable political documentation of the Siege of Paris in 1871; and child protégée Henri Lartigue’s photographs of the Belle Epoque in the early 1900s
Counterpoised with these images is a selection of photographs from the 1920s and 1930s: a time when photographers chose to focus on varied aspects of everyday life. The darker side of the city formed the focus of Brassai’s fascinating investigations of the ‘secret life of Paris’ while André Kertész created beautifully composed images of everyday Paris that show his eloquent eye for the medium.
City of Light: Paris and photography 1850s-1930s is not only a rare opportunity to view and enjoy French photographers contribution to the medium but provides a fascinating glimpse into a city in love (and occasionally at war) with itself.