October 5, 2007

The Development of Photo-Reportage - Exhibition in Paris

Photography Exhibition > Paris


The Development of Photo-Reportage

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

16 October 2007 - 6 January 2008


The word  ‘reporter’, which refers to a journalist investigating a subject, entered the French language at the beginning of the 19th Century, when the press was in full expansion. Photo-reportage in the proper sense developed in the 20th Century with the improvement of cameras and the boom of illustrated magazines. It was not until the turn of the last century that simultaneous printing of photography and text, through the use of a screen was made possible and finally applicable on an industrial scale.

This type of investigation, which the big newspapers put “reporters” in charge of, existed, to tell the truth, since the invention of photographs on paper, at the beginning of the 1840s but they were forced to remain relatively exclusive.

The theme of the exhibition, put together from the collections of the Musée d’Orsay, is social reportage and its beginning. It aims to show how, throughout the 19th Century, photographers viewed  the silent  majority of the society, made up of factory workers, small artisans, peasants, the poor, and those without ranking or even the populations barely touched by western civilisation.

It was after the events of 1848 that the “common people” gained access to historical dignity, to borrow  the expression of  Robert L. Herbert, and became one of the favourite themes of philosophers, writers and painters, before being that of the reformers. Photographers naturally followed suit.

The chosen prints were made at  very different   times and  in very different  conditions.  They demonstrate the artists’ exercises, such as the series on the fishermen of New Haven taken in 1843 by Hill and Adamson, or even the photographs that  Napoleon III commissioned to commemorate the creation of a Hospice for the workers injured on building sites and  to document the Rhône floods, as well as genuine social studies, such as the photo-reportage on the Jewish communities in Poland, produced in 1919 on request by a charitable organisation. All of these scenes however share the task of confirming the arrival of these new heroes, just as surely as the work of  Daumier, Courbet, Millet and  Doré. Firstly, they merited their existence as representatives of a class, then, at the beginning of the 20th Century, helped by development of social conscience and improvement of techniques, as separate individuals.

Curators: Françoise Heilbrun, head Curator at the Musée d'Orsay,
Assisted by Saskia Ooms and Laura Braemer

Publications:  La photographie au musée d'Orsay : vers   le  reportage  (1843-1933)  [Photography at the Musée d’Orsay: the development of photo-reportage], by Françoise Heilbrun, 96 pages, 62 illustrations four-colour prints, available in French, English and Italian, co publishing 5 Continents/musée d'Orsay, EUR 12


The Development of Photo-Reportage
16 October 2007 - 6 January 2008

Musée d'Orsay
Photographic gallery
Level 0, rue de Lille side

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