Posts Tagged ‘Avenue de l’Observatoire


Exhibition: ‘Brassaï’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 20th February – 13th May 2018

Curator: Mr. Peter Galassi



Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Vista per sota del Pont Royal cap al Pont de Solférino [View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino]' c. 1933


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Vista per sota del Pont Royal cap al Pont de Solférino
View through the pont Royal toward the pont Solférino

c. 1933
[Nuit / Night 53]
40.1 x 51 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris



For those who know how to look

Not everyone can see. It takes a great eye and a great mind, and the liberation of that mind, to be able to transform the mundane, the everyday, the vernacular – into art. Brassaï’s folklore, his mythology of life, suggests that the life of others (those living on the edge) is as valuable and essential to the formation of culture as any other part of existence.

Brassaï’s work comes alive at night and, as Alejandra Uribe Ríos observes, “The night was undoubtedly the great muse of his work, his inspiration.” While he got some of his friends to stage scenes for his book Paris by night – acting as prostitutes and customers hanging around in back alleys – it matters not one bit. The artist was embedded in this world and represents what he knows, what he has seen in his mind’s eye.

The density of his photographs is incredible – their atmosphere thick and heavy; revealing and beautiful. “In certain photographs, objects take on a particular light, a fascinating presence. Vision has fixed them “as they are in themselves” […]. It confers a density that is entirely foreign to their real existence. They are there, one might say, for the first time, but at the same time for the last.” The first and last, a circular compaction of time and space into the eternal present, objects as they are in themselves and will always be.

That fascinating presence can be felt even today, for that is what the time freeze of photography does: it “look backwards and forwards in the same instance.”

Brassaï saw something clearly, so that we might see it now. Look at the seemingly mundane space portrayed in Concierge’s Lodge, Paris (1933, below) from his book Paris de jour / Paris by Day. The photograph could be taken at night, but it is day! The small amount of sunlight falls on the tied-back curtain in the doorway; the crumpled mat lies outside the door; the two doors compete for our visual attention – one the solid presence that holds up the left hand side of the image, the other the vanishing point in the distance; and the eye is led down to this door by the pavement and the gutter with a band of water emphasising the form. The verticality of the worn and ancient stone work is emphasised by the modern metal box in front of it, leading the eye up to the Concierge sign only, mind you, for numbers 5 & 7. But then the mystery… what is going on above the ancient door at the rear – the sky, a ceiling, another wall lit by the last rays of the sun? Such a dense, complex image that requires an intimate knowledge of the mystery of place, in both the artist and the viewer.

Here we see Brassaï in Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème, standing in the snow at night, heavy overcoat, hat, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, squinting through his camera to previsualise not just the photograph he is taking, but it’s final, physical embodiment, the print. In our world today of Insta-photos, millions and millions of photographs that mean basically nothing, and where anyone without training can pick up a camera and think of themselves a photographer, there is something to be said for taking the time to train and educate your eye and your mind. Only then might you reveal something about the world and, possibly, yourself as well.


@mapfrefcultura #expo_brassai

Many thankx to Fundación MAPFRE for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“I was eager to penetrate this other world, this fringe world, the secret, sinister world of mobsters, outcasts, toughs, pimps, whores, addicts, inverts. Rightly or wrongly, I felt at the time that this underground world represented Paris at its least cosmopolitan, its most alive, its most authentic, that in these colourful faces of its underworld there had been preserved from age to age, almost without alteration, the folklore of its most remote past.”

Brassaï, 1976


“In certain photographs, objects take on a particular light, a fascinating presence. Vision has fixed them “as they are in themselves” […]. It confers a density that is entirely foreign to their real existence. They are there, one might say, for the first time, but at the same time for the last.”

Brassaï, undated note


“To oblige the model to behave as if the photographer isn’t there really is to stage a comic performance. What’s natural is precisely not to dodge the photographer’s presence. The natural thing in that situation is for the model to pose honestly.”

Brassaï, undated note


“The night suggests, he does not teach. The night finds us and surprises us by its strangeness; it liberates in us the forces that, during the day, are dominated by reason.”

“Night does not show things, it suggests them. It disturbes and surprises us with its strangeness. It liberates forces within us which are dominated by our reason during the daytime.”



“The night was undoubtedly the great muse of his work, his inspiration. The train tracks, the lovers, the fog, the posters, the ballet and the cabarets. Everything is worthy of portraying for those who know how to look and that is undoubtedly one of Brassai’s merits: embodying the everyday, rescuing the magical, the lyrical, the mystery of common life, and doing it with elegance, converting the seemingly trivial into a artwork.”

Alejandra Uribe Ríos



Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Porteria, París [Concierge's Lodge, Paris]' 1933


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Porteria, París
Concierge’s Lodge, Paris

[Paris de jour / Paris by Day 686]
29.3 x 22.2 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'The Eiffel Tower seen through the Gate of the Trocadéro' 1930-32


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
La Torre Eiffel vista a través del reixat del Trocadéro
La torre Eiffel vista a través de la reja del Trocadero
The Eiffel Tower seen through the Gate of the Trocadéro

[Nuit / Night 1; variant of Paris de nuit / Paris by Night, plate 57]
30 x 23.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Émile Richard' c. 1932


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Apagant un fanal, Rue Émile Richard
Apagando una farola, rue Émile Richard
Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Émile Richard

c. 1932
[Nuit / Night 267]
22.9 x 28.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Avenue de l'Observatoire' 1934


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Avenue de l’Observatoire
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 30.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Streetwalker, near the place d’Italie' 1932


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Meuca, a prop de la Place d’Italie
Prostituta, cerca de la Place d’Italie
Streetwalker, near the place d’Italie
[Plaisirs / Pleasure 333]
29.9 x 22.9 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris




Fundación MAPFRE is launching its 2018 exhibition programme in Barcelona with the exhibition Brassaï, a comprehensive survey of the career of this celebrated Hungarian-born French photographer whose work helped to define the spirit of Paris in the 1930s. Brassaï was one of the most important of the group of European and American photographers whose work in the inter-war years greatly enriched photography’s potential as a form of artistic expression.

The artist began to take photographs in 1929 or 1930, maintaining an intense level of activity throughout the 1930s. Brassaï’s principal subject was Paris, where he settled in 1924, intending to become a painter. Around the end of World War I the artistic centre of the city had shifted from Montmartre to Montparnasse where most of the artists, constituting a major international community, lived like a large family. Brassï was fascinated by the French capital and later said that he started to take photographs in order to express his passion for the city at night. Soon, however, he also began to take portraits, nudes, still life, images of everyday life and depictions of picturesque corners of the city and moments captured during the day.

Brassaï’s confidence in the power of blunt, straightforward photography to transform what it describes, as well as his talent for extracting from ordinary life iconic images of lasting force, won him an important place among the pioneers of modern photography.

This exhibition offers a survey of the artist’s career through more than 200 works (vintage photographs, a number of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material) grouped into twelve thematic sections, of which the two devoted to Paris in the 1930s are the most important. Produced by Fundación MAPFRE and curated by Peter Galassi, chief curator of the Department of Photography at the MoMA, New York, from 1991 to 2011, this is the first retrospective exhibition on Brassaï to be organised since 2000 (Centre Pompidou) and the first to be held in Spain since 1993.

The exhibition benefits from the exceptional loan of the Estate Brassaï Succession (Paris) and other loans from some of the most important institutions and private collections in Europe and the United States, including: The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou (París), The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, David Dechman and Michel Mercure, ISelf Collection (London) and Nicholas and Susan Pritzker.


The Photographer – Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)

Brassaï (the pseudonym of Gyulá Halász) was born in 1899 in Brassó, Transylvania (present-day Braşov in Rumania), from where he subsequently took his name for signing his photographs (Brassaï means “from Brassó”).

After studying art in Budapest and Berlin, he moved to Paris and very soon began to earn occasional money and establish a reputation by selling articles and caricatures to German and Hungarian magazines. Photographs were rapidly replacing traditional magazine illustrations and Brassaï also functioned as a one-man photo-agency. Eventually he started making photographs himself, abandoning painting and sculpting, disciplines for which he nevertheless retained great interest and to which he returned during his career. Around 1900, an aesthetic movement had justified its claim that photography was as a fine art by imitating the appearance of the traditional arts. It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that a new generation rejected that approach and began exploring the artistic potential of plain, ordinary photographs. When the tradition that they launched began to achieve widespread recognition in the 1970s, Brassaï would be recognised as one of its leading figures.

During the German occupation of Paris, Brassaï was obliged to stop taking photographs and he thus returned to drawing and writing. In 1949 he obtained French nationality. After the war he once again devoted part of his time to photography and traveled regularly to undertake commissions for the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar. He died in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (France) in 1984 without ever returning to his native Brassó.


The sections of the exhibition

Paris by Night

Paris by Night was in fact the result of a commission which the publisher Charles Peignot gave to the young and still unknown Brassaï. The book, of which a copy is presented in the exhibition, was published in December 1932 and was extremely successful thanks in part to its modern design, pages without margins and richly toned photogravures. Brassaï continued to explore nocturnal Paris throughout the 1930s, developing a personal vision that is embodied in numerous prints in the exhibition.

They evoke the city’s dynamic, vibrant mood: the close-up image of a gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral rather than a conventional view of that building, or the Pont Royal seen from the water rather than from above. These are almost always silent images in which time seems to stand still.


When Brassaï reorganised his archive just after World War II, gathered under the rubric Plaisirs he included his pictures of small-time criminals and prostitutes and other figures of Parisian low life together with images of Parisian entertainments, including cheap dance halls to local street fairs to the annual entertainments designed to flout bourgeois conventions. Brassaï obtained permission to work backstage at the famous Folies Bergère, which allowed him to observe everything that was happening from a high viewpoint. His images of Parisian low life transpose to the vivid new medium of photography a vital mythology that had been elaborated in literature and the traditional visual arts.

No one photographed Paris by night as skilfully as Brassaï but he also built up a considerable collection of images of the city by day. Its famous monuments, picturesque corners and details of everyday life are the subject of many of these photographs. Some of his images of the early 1930s reveal his interest in daring geometrical forms and abrupt truncation, for example his famous images of the city’s cobblestones. But even his boldest graphic experiments reflect his abiding fascination with the continuities of an enduring human civilisation.

Paris by day

Nobody photographed Paris at night as accurately as Brassaï, but also accumulated a considerable collection of images of the city in daylight. Monuments, picturesque corners or details of everyday life play a large part in these scenes.

Some of his photographs from the thirties also reflect his interest in geometric styles or abrupt cuts, as shown by the famous cobblestone images of city streets. But even these bolder graphic experiments reflect, like the rest of his images of the city, his permanent fascination with what for him was presented as a remote and inexhaustible tradition, in constant development.


The notion of graffiti as a powerful art form first emerged in the 20th century. Like African tribal objects, children’s art or that of the mentally ill, graffiti was considered more expressive and vital than the refined forms of traditional western art.

Brassaï was in fact one of the first to focus on this subject matter. He was an inveterate hoarder who throughout his life collected all types of cast-off objects and from almost the moment he began to take photographs he used the medium to record the graffiti he saw on the walls of Paris. He preferred examples of graffiti that had been incised or scratched to drawn or painted ones, as well as those in which the irregularity of the wall itself played an important role in aesthetic terms. He took hundreds of images of this type of which only a small selection is on display here.


Between the time of his arrival in Paris in early 1924 and his first steps in photography taken six years later, Brassaï built up a large circle of friends within the international community of artists and writers in Montparnasse. They included Les deux aveugles [The two blind men], as the art critics Maurice Raynal and the Greek-born E. Tériade referred to themselves. In December 1932, the same month that Paris de nuit was published, Tériade invited Brassaï to photograph Picasso and his studios to illustrate the first issue of Minotaure, the deluxe art magazine that would be published in 1933 by the Swiss publisher Albert Skira. Copies of various different issues are on display in this section. This collaboration marked the starting point of Brassaï’s friendship with Picasso, one of the most important of his entire life. Over the following years Brassaï would play an important role in the life of the magazine, particularly with the projects for which he collaborated with Salvador Dalí and as an illustrator to texts by André Breton, although in some cases as an artist in his own right. The first number of the magazine included a series of nudes by Brassaï and his growing graffiti series, while number 7 devoted several pages to Brassaï’s nocturnal visions. All these evoke the artist’s modernity and his relationship with the most important circles of the Parisian avant-garde.

Personages / Characters

In 1949 in his prologue to Camera in Paris, a monograph on contemporary photographers, Brassaï paraphrased Baudelaire in The Painter of modern Life and established a line of continuity between the art of the photographer and that of some of the great artists of the past such as Rembrandt, Goya and Toulouse-Lautrec. In this sense he explained how, like them, photography could elevate ordinary subjects to the level of the universal. The people depicted in this gallery reflect that idea as not only do we see a worker at Les Halles market, a transvestite or a penitent in Seville, but through the dignity given to them by the image all of them exceed their individuality and come to represent a collective.

Places and things

One of Brassaï’s earliest projects, which was never produced, was a book of photographs of cacti. Many years later, in 1957, he made a short film on animals. Most of his photographs of objects or places, however, focus on human creations, reflecting his boundless curiosity about the people that made them, used them or lived in them.

During his trips Brassaï took numerous photographs of which a small selection are on display here: a view of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia from a high viewpoint, a painted wall in Sacromonte, Granada, and a shop window in New Orleans. In some of these images, such as Vineyard, Château Mouton-Rothschild (June 1953), the viewpoint jumps sharply from the foreground to the background, splitting the image in half along its horizontal axis – a pictorial device invented by Brassaï.


During the mid-1930s and just after World War II, Brassaï photographed at more than two dozen gatherings of Parisian high society – costume balls, fancy soirées, and other events both at private homes and such elegant venues as the Ritz – as well as the famous Nuit de Longchamp (the race course just outside of Paris) every summer from 1936 to 1939. At these events he had much less opportunity to intervene in the action than in Parisian dance halls and bars, but he nonetheless was able to create lasting images of a distinct social reality. Perhaps the most extraordinary of them is his photograph of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Art Nouveau interior of the swank restaurant Maxim’s (completed just a few years before the Casa Garriga Nogués). Although that image has been famous since it was made in 1949, Brassaï’s series on Parisian high society is poorly known, and several of the photographs are presented for the first time in this exhibition.

Body of a woman

During the occupation of Paris (1940-1944), Brassaï declined to work for the Germans and so was unable to photograph openly. His only income seems to have come from a clandestine commission from Picasso to photograph the master’s sculptures. Partly at Picasso’s urging, Brassaï returned to drawing. Most of the drawings that he made in 1943-45, like most of the drawings that survive from his time as an art student in Berlin in 1921-22, are female nudes. The same is the case with many of the sculptures that he started to produce after the war, often made from stones worn by the effect of water.

It would be foolish to attempt to disguise the intensity of Brassaï’s male gaze behind the curtain of a purely aesthetic pursuit of “form.” What is distinctive and powerful in his images of the female body is their unembarrassed carnal urgency.

Portraits: artists, writers, friends

Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Henry Miller (who gave Brassaï the sobriquet “The eye of Paris”), Pierre Reverdy, Jacques Prévert, Henri Matisse and Léon-Paul Fargue are just a few of the subjects of the portraits on display in this section of the exhibition.

Most of Brassaï’s portraits are of people that he knew and perhaps as a result of that closeness they convey a powerful spirit of frankness, unencumbered by posturing. It is also true; however, that Brassaï regularly achieved that spirit even when he did not know the subject.


Broadly speaking, the hallmark of advance European photography in the 1920s and 1930s was a new sense of mobility and spontaneity. But spontaneity was alien to Brassaï’s sensibility, which instead sought clarity and stability. Instead of the popular, hand-held camera, a 35mm Leica, Brassaï chose a camera that used glass plates and often stood on a tripod. As if to declare his independence from the aesthetic of mobility, he chose sleeping in public as a recurrent motif.

The street

Brassaï’s work for Harper’s Bazaar led him to travel in France and in numerous other places, from Spain to Sweden, the United States and Brazil. While the roots of his talent lay in Paris he thus produced an extensive body of photographs taken in places that were unfamiliar to him. The exhibition includes a number of these works, three of them depicting Spain.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Chez Suzy' 1931-32


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Chez Suzy
[Plaisirs / Pleasure 352]
30 x 23.8 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Nude in the Bathtub' 1938


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Nu a la banyera
Desnudo en la bañera
Nude in the Bathtub
[Nu / Naked 199]
23.5 x 17.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Four Seasons Ball, rue de Lappe' c. 1932


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe
Four Seasons Ball, rue de Lappe
c. 1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 2]
49.8 x 40.4 cm
Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris © Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'At Magic City' c. 1932


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Al Magic City
En Magic City
At Magic City
c. 1932
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 439]
23.2 x 16.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Lovers at the Gare Saint-Lazare' 1937


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Amants a l’estació de Saint-Lazare
Amantes en la Gare Saint-Lazare
Lovers at the Gare Saint-Lazare
c. 1937
[Plaisirs / Pleasures 143]
23.6 x 17.3 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Haute Couture Soirée' 1935


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Vetllada d’alta costura
Velada de alta costura
Haute Couture Soirée
[Soirées 85 (image reversed)]
17.6 x 21.1 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Lobster Seller, Seville' 1951


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Venedor de marisc, Sevilla
Vendedor de marisco, Sevilla
Lobster Seller, Seville
[Étranger / Foreign 401]
49.3 x 37 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'New Orleans' 1957


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
New Orleans
[Amérique / America 451]
35.9 x 29.4 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Montmartre' 1930-31


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
[Paris de jour / Paris by day 472.C]
29.8 x 39.6 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Jean Genet, Paris' 1948


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Jean Genet, Paris
[Arts 787.E]
39.7 x 30.2 cm
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Picasso Holding One Of The Sculptures' 1939


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Picasso Tenant Une De Les Sculptures
Picasso Holding One Of The Sculptures

© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Portrait of Picasso in His Studio at 23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris' 1932


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Portrait of Picasso in His Studio at 23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris


23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris


23 rue de La Boëtie, Paris


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 - 1984) 'Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème' c. 1931-1932


Brassaï (Gyulá Halász, 1899 – 1984)
Self-portrait, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, Paris 14ème
c. 1931-1932
© Estate Brassaï Succession, Paris



Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space
Calle Diputació, 250

Opening hours:
Mondays from 2 pm to 8 pm
Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 8 pm
Sundays/holidays from 11 am to 7 pm

Fundación MAPFRE website


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Exhibition: ‘Autophoto’ at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

Exhibition dates: 20th April – 24th September 2017

Artists: Robert Adams • Eve Arnold • Bernard Asset • Éric Aupol • Theo Baart Et Cary Markerink • Sue Barr • Valérie Belin • Martin Bogren • Nicolas Bouvier • David Bradford • Brassaï • Alain Bublex • Edward Burtynsky • Andrew Bush • Ronni Campana • Gilles Caron • Alejandro Cartagena • Kurt Caviezel • Philippe Chancel • Larry Clark • Langdon Clay • Stéphane Couturier • Bruce Davidson • Jean Depara • Raymond Depardon • John Divola • Robert Doisneau • William Eggleston • Elliott Erwitt • Walker Evans • Barry Feinstein • Pierre De Fenoÿl • Alain Fleischer • Robert Frank • Lee Friedlander • Bernhard Fuchs • Paolo Gasparini • Óscar Fernando Gómez • Jeff Guess • Andreas Gursky • Fernando Gutiérrez • Jacqueline Hassink • Anthony Hernandez • Yasuhiro Ishimoto • Peter Keetman • Seydou Keïta • Germaine Krull • Seiji Kurata • Justine Kurland • Jacques Henri Lartigue • O. Winston Link • Peter Lippmann • Marcos López • Alex Maclean • Ella Maillart • Man Ray • Mary Ellen Mark • Arwed Messmer • Ray K. Metzker • Sylvie Meunier Et Patrick Tourneboeuf • Joel Meyerowitz • Kay Michalak et Sven Völker • Óscar Monzón • Basile Mookherjee • Daido Moriyama • Patrick Nagatani • Arnold Odermatt • Catherine Opie • Trent Parke • Martin Parr • Mateo Pérez • Jean Pigozzi • Bernard Plossu • Matthew Porter • Edward Quinn • Bill Rauhauser • Rosângela Rennó • Luciano Rigolini • Miguel Rio Branco • Ed Ruscha • Sory Sanlé • Hans-christian Schink • Antoine Schnek • Stephen Shore • Malick Sidibé • Guido Sigriste • Raghubir Singh • Melle Smets Et Joost Van Onna • Jules Spinatsch • Dennis Stock • Hiroshi Sugimoto • Juergen Teller • Tendance Floue • Thierry Vernet • Weegee • Henry Wessel • Alain Willaume




Jacques Henri Lartigue. 'Une Delage au Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France, circuit de Dieppe' June 26, 1912


Jacques Henri Lartigue
Une Delage au Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France, circuit de Dieppe
June 26, 1912
Gelatin silver print
30 x 40 cm
Donation Jacques Henri Lartigue, Charenton-le-Pont Photographie Jacques Henri Lartigue
© Ministère de la Culture – France/AAJHL
Exhibition Autophoto from April 20 to September 24, 2017
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris


Juergen Teller. 'OJ Simpson no. 5' Miami 2000


Juergen Teller
OJ Simpson no. 5
Miami 2000
Giclee print
51 x 61 cm
Collection of the artist
© Juergen Teller, 2017



I missed this exhibition when I was in Paris recently. A great pity, I would have liked to have seen it. Some rare photographs that I have never laid eyes on before. I especially love Ray K. Metzker’s Washington, DC. The photography in both Paris and London was disappointing during my month overseas. Other than a large exhibition of Gregory Crewdson’s photographs at the Photographers’ Gallery London, there was not much of interest on offer.


PS. So many more horizontal photographs than vertical, the automobile obviously lending itself to this orientation. I love this observation: “Photography, a tool of immobility, benefited from the automobile, a mobility tool.” And this from Jean Baudrillard: “Riding is a form spectacular amnesia. Everything to discover, everything to be erased.”

Many thankx to Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“Photographing is a profession. Craftsmanship. A job that one learns, that one makes more or less well, like all trades. The photographer is a witness. The witness of his time. The true photographer is the witness of every day, they are the reporter. ”

Germaine Krull


“I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals; I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.”

Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Le Seuil, Paris, 1970, p. 150



Thirty years after the exhibition Hommage à Ferrari, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain will once again focus its attention on the world of cars with the exhibition Autophoto, dedicated to photography’s relationship to the automobile. Since its invention, the automobile has reshaped our landscape, extended our geographic horizons, and radically altered our conception of space and time. The car has also influenced the approach and practice of photographers, providing them not only with a new subject but also a new way of exploring the world and a new means of expression. Based on an idea by Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier, Autophoto will present over 500 works from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. It will invite us to discover the many facets of automotive culture – aesthetic, social, environmental, and industrial – through the eyes of photographers from around the world. The exhibition will bring together over 90 photographers including both famous and lesser-known figures such as Jacques Henri Lartigue, William Eggleston, Justine Kurland and Jacqueline Hassink, who have shown a fascination for the automobile as a subject or have used it as a tool to take their pictures.


Relevé photographique des voies de circulation mondiales réalisé par Michelin c. 1930


Relevé photographique des voies de circulation mondiales réalisé par Michelin
c. 1930
Collection Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand
© Michelin


Studio portraits, 'China' c. 1950, collected by Thomas Sauvin


Studio portraits
c. 1950
Collected by Thomas Sauvin
Colourised gelatin silver print
7.5 x 11.5 cm
Collection Beijing Silvermine/Thomas Sauvin, Paris Photo all rights reserved


Seydou Keïta. 'Untitled' 1952–55


Seydou Keïta
Gelatin silver print
50 × 60 cm
CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva
© SKPEAC (The Seydou Keïta Photography Estate Advisor Corporation)


Nicolas Bouvier. 'Entre Prilep et Istanbul, Turquie' 1953


Nicolas Bouvier
Entre Prilep et Istanbul, Turquie
Musée de l’Élysée, Lausanne
© Fonds Nicolas Bouvier / Musée de l’Élysée, Lausanne


O. Winston Link. 'Hot Shot Eastbound' 1956


O. Winston Link
Hot Shot Eastbound
Collection Mathé Perrin, Bruxelles
© O. Winston Link


Ray K. Metzker. 'Washington, DC' 1964


Ray K. Metzker
Washington, DC
Gelatin silver print
20 × 25.5 cm
Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris/Laurence Miller Gallery, New York
© Estate Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris/Laurence Miller Gallery, New York


Bernard Plossu. 'Sur la route d'Acapulco, Mexique' 1966


Bernard Plossu
Sur la route d’Acapulco, Mexique
From Le Voyage mexicain series
Gelatin silver print
18 × 27 cm
Courtesy of the artist/Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris
© Bernard Plossu


Bernard Plossu. 'Chiapas, Mexique' 1966


Bernard Plossu
Chiapas, Mexique
From Le Voyage mexicain series
Gelatin silver print
18 × 27 cm
Courtesy of the artist/Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris
© Bernard Plossu



“A panorama framed by the rectangle of the windshield. A long ribbon of asphalt, a line of flight that stretches towards the horizon. For more than a century, we can capture this image and travel the world by car, this photographic “box”. Automotive and photography, two tools to model the landscape, two mechanics of the traction and attraction, have emerged at the end of the nineteenth century, through new rhythms and new rites, the society of modern times. If the photograph allows multiple views and list them, to memorise the movement and leave a trace, the automobile makes it possible to move in space. Photography, a tool of immobility, benefited from the automobile, a mobility tool. And if the automobile like photography is constantly evolving, these two inventions have parallel paths in order to better, to master space-time. “Riding is a form spectacular amnesia. Everything to discover, everything to be erased,”1 writes Jean Baudrillard.”

From the foreword by commissioners of the exhibition Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier

  1. Jean Baudrillard, Amérique, Grasset, Paris, 1986, p. 15


Henry Wessel. 'Pennsylvania' 1968


Henry Wessel
Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne
© Henry Wessel, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne.


William Eggleston. 'Los Alamos' series 1965-1968


William Eggleston
Los Alamos series
Dye-transfer print
40.5 × 50.5 cm
Eggleston Artistic Trust, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London
© Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London


William Eggleston. 'Los Alamos' series c. 1974


William Eggleston
Los Alamos series
c. 1974
Inkjet print
56 × 73.5 cm
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Memphis
© Eggleston Artistic Trust, Memphis


Bill Rauhauser. 'Detroit Auto Show' series c. 1975


Bill Rauhauser
Detroit Auto Show series
c. 1975
Detroit Institute of Arts, don de l’artiste en mémoire de Doris Rauhauser
© 2007 Rauhauser Photographic Trust. All Rights Reserved


Langdon Clay. 'Zizka Cleaners car, Buick Electra' 1976


Langdon Clay
Zizka Cleaners car, Buick Electra
Series Cars, New York City, 1976
Courtesy of the artist
© Langdon Clay


Joel Meyerowitz. 'Upstate New York' 1977


Joel Meyerowitz
Upstate New York
Collection Joel Meyerowitz Photography, New York
© Joel Meyerowitz, courtesy Polka Galerie, Paris


Bernard Asset. 'Passager d'Alain Prost (Alain Prost au volant d’une Renault RE30B, tests F1 sur le circuit Dijon-Prenois)' 1982


Bernard Asset
Passager d’Alain Prost (Alain Prost au volant d’une Renault RE30B, tests F1 sur le circuit Dijon-Prenois)
Collection de l’artiste
© Bernard Asset


David Bradford. 'Coaster Ride Stealth' 1994


David Bradford
Coaster Ride Stealth
From Drive-By Shootings series
28 × 35.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© David Bradford


Andrew Bush. 'Woman Waiting to Proceed South at Sunset and Highland Boulevards, Los Angeles, at Approximately 11:59 a.m. One Day in February 1997' 1997


Andrew Bush
Woman Waiting to Proceed South at Sunset and Highland Boulevards, Los Angeles, at Approximately 11:59 a.m. One Day in February 1997
From Vector Portraits series
122 × 151 cm
Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
© Andrew Bush


Rosângela Rennó. 'Cerimônia do Adeus' series,1997-2003


Rosângela Rennó
Cerimônia do Adeus series
C-print face-mounted on Plexiglas
50 × 68 cm
Courtesy of the artist/Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon
© Rosângela Rennó


Valérie Belin. 'Untitled' 2002


Valérie Belin
Gelatin silver print
61 x 71.5 cm (framed)
Courtesy of the artist/Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Valérie Belin/ADAGP, Paris 2017


Stéphane Couturier. 'MELT, Toyota No 8' 2005


Stéphane Couturier
MELT, Toyota No. 8
From Melting Point, Usine Toyota, Valenciennes series
92 × 137 cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy La Galerie Particulière, Paris/Brussels
© Stéphane Couturier


Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009

Óscar Fernando Gómez. 'Windows' series, 2009


Óscar Fernando Gómez
Windows series
Slide show
Courtesy Martin Parr Studio, Bristol
© Óscar Fernando Gómez


Alain Willaume. '#5069' 2012


Alain Willaume
From the Échos de la poussière et de la fracturation series
Collection de l’artiste
© Alain Willaume (Tendance Floue)


Peter Lippmann. 'Citroën Traction 7' 2012


Peter Lippmann
Citroën Traction 7
From the Paradise Parking series
75 × 100 cm
Collection of the artist
© Peter Lippmann


Justine Kurland. '280 Coup' 2012


Justine Kurland
280 Coup
Inkjet Print
47 x 61 cm
Courtesy of the artist/Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
© Justine Kurland


Melle Smets and Joost Van Onna. 'Turtle 1. Building a Car in Africa' 2016


Melle Smets and Joost Van Onna
Turtle 1. Building a Car in Africa
Courtesy des artistes / Paradox, Edam
© Melle Smets et Joost Van Onna


Luciano Rigolini. 'Tribute to Giorgio de Chirico' 2017


Luciano Rigolini
Tribute to Giorgio de Chirico
Duratrans in lightbox
124 x 154 cm
Collection of the artist
© Luciano Rigolini (appropriation – unknown photographer, 1958)



First Visions: A New Subject for Photography

In the early 20th century, the automobile and its impact on the landscape had already become a subject of predilection for many photographers, influencing both the form and content of their work. The exhibition will begin by focusing on early photographers like Jacques Henri Lartigue, Germaine Krull, and Brassaï, who used the automobile to varying degrees in their work. They registered the thrill of speed, the chaos of Parisian traffic or the city’s dramatic car-illuminated nocturnal landscape to represent a society in transition at the birth of the modern age. Other photographers of the time were attracted by the promise of freedom and mobility offered by the automobile. Anticipating the modern road trip, Swiss writers and photographers Ella Maillart and Nicolas Bouvier, travelled throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1950s respectively, using their cars and cameras to record their adventures along the way.


Auto Portraits

The exhibition will also present a series of “auto portraits”* made by a variety of photographers from the mi-twentieth century to the present. Yashuhiro Ishimoto and Langdon Clay’s photographs, for example, are portraits in profile of cars parked on sparsely inhabited city streets, that immerse the viewer in a different eras and atmospheres. Ishimoto’s black and white photographs, taken in Chicago in the 1950s, emphasise their polished, curved silhouettes in a distanced and serial manner, while Langdon Clay’s colour pictures taken in New York in the 1970s, show their decaying and dented chassis in an eerie nocturnal light. Other works in this section, such as the found photographs of Sylvie Meunier and Patrick Tourneboeuf’s American Dream series, or the flamboyant portraits of African photographers Seydou Keïta and Sory Sanlé, focus on the role of the automobile as a emblem of social mobility showing proud owners posing with their cars.

*A play on words in French: auto portrait meaning self-portrait.


The Car as a Medium: New Perspectives on the Landscape

Many photographers have exploited the technical and aesthetic possibilities offered by the automobile, using it like a camera to capture the surrounding landscape through car windows or the reflections in rear-view mirrors.

Cars have determined the framing and composition as well as the serial nature of the photographs of Joel Meyerowitz, Daido Moriyama, John Divola and David Bradford who have all worked from moving cars. From behind their windshields, these photographers capture an amusing store sign, a white car behind a wire fence, a dog running along a dusty road, a highway stretching out into the horizon. Other photographers, including Sue Barr, Robert Adams, Ed Ruscha, and Alex MacLean scrutinize our car-altered environment. Their landscape is no longer one of magnificent mountains, wondrous waterfalls or awe-inspiring canyons, but of a world transformed by the automobile with its suburban housing complexes, parking lots, and highway infrastructure.


Our Car Culture: Industry, History and New Ways of Life

Many photographers have explored other aspects of our car culture, from the car industry and its impact on the environment to its role in history and society. Both Robert Doisneau and Robert Frank registered life in the factory, from the machines and productions lines to the activities of the workers lives, the first at the Renault plant in the 1930s and the second at Ford River Rouge in the 1950s. Their photographs, unique in their attention to individual assembly line workers, contrast with the work of contemporary photographer Stéphane Couturier whose deliberately distanced, impersonal pictures taken at a Toyota factory reflect the increasingly dehumanised nature of contemporary industry. Working in Ghana, far from the automated factory photographed by Stéphane Couturier, Dutch artist Melle Smets, and sociologist Joost Van Onna, put industrial waste from the car industry to good use. Collaborating with local craftsman in a region called Suame Magazine, where cars are disassembled and their parts traded, they created a car specifically for the African market called Turtle 1, using parts from different brands that happened to be available. Their installation, which includes photographs, drawings, and videos, documents the entire fabrication process of this car.

Photographers such as Philippe Chancel, Éric Aupol and Edward Burtynsky are concerned with the car industry’s damage to the environment. Philippe Chancel’s work focuses on the city of Flint and its dismantled General Motors factory, while Éric Aupol’s and Ed Burtynsky’s photographs reveal the sculptural yet apocalyptic beauty of industrial waste sites.

Other photographers reveal how the car plays an important role in historical events, in society and in daily life. Arwed Messmer’s Reenactement series brings together photographs from the archives of the Stasi showing how people used cars in unusual ways to escape from East Germany, and Fernando Gutiérrez work, Secuelas, explores the role of the Ford Falcon, a symbol of Argentina’s military dictatorship, in the collective imaginary of the Argentinean people. Jacqueline Hassink’s immersive projection Car Girls investigates the role and status of women who work in car shows around the world. Martin Parr’s series From A to B chronicles the thoughts dreams and anxieties of British motorists. Still other series by photographers such as Rosângela Rennó, Óscar Monzón, Kurt Caviezel and Bruce Davidson show how the car has become an extension of the home, used for weddings and picnics, living and sleeping, arguments and making love.

The Fondation Cartier has also invited artist Alain Bublex to create for the exhibition a series of 10 model cars that cast a fresh eye on the history of automobile design. His installation combines photographs, drawings and models to explore how the car design has evolved over time incorporating new techniques, forms, and practices.

Despite energy crises, ecology movements, and industrial mismanagement, the car remains essential to our daily lives. At a time when we are questioning the role and the future of the automobile in our society, the Autophoto exhibition reexamines, with nostalgia, humour, and a critical eye, this 20th century symbol of freedom and independence.


The Catalogue

Bringing together over 600 images, the catalogue of the Autophoto exhibition reveals how photography, a tool privileging immobility, benefited from the automobile, a tool privileging mobility. The catalogue features iconic images by both historic and contemporary photographers who have captured the automobile, and transformed this popular accessible object through their passionate and creative vision. Quotes by the artists, and a chronology of automobile design, as well as interviews and texts by specialists provide a deeper understanding of this vast topic through a variety of aesthetic, sociological, and historical perspectives.

Press release from The Fondation Cartier


Peter Keetman. 'Hintere Kotflügel' 1953


Peter Keetman
Hintere Kotflügel (Rear fenders)
From Eine Woche im Volkswagenwerk (A week at the Volkswagenwerk) series
Gelatin silver print
27 × 24.5 cm
Nachlass Peter Keetman/Stiftung F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg
© Nachlass Peter Keetman/Stiftung F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg


Ed Ruscha. '7133 Kester, Van Nuys' 1967


Ed Ruscha
7133 Kester, Van Nuys
Thirtyfour Parking Lots series
Chipmunk Collection
© Ed Ruscha, courtesy Gagosian Gallery


Malick Sidibé. 'Taximan avec voiture' 1970


Malick Sidibé
Taximan avec voiture
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30 cm
Courtesy Galerie Magnin-A, Paris
© Malick Sidibé


Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008


Lee Friedlander
From the America by Car series
Gelatin silver print
37.5 × 37.5 cm
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


Lee Friedlander. 'California' 2008


Lee Friedlander
From the America by Car series
Gelatin silver print
37.5 × 37.5 cm
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


Alejandro Cartagena. 'The Carpoolers' series 2011–12


Alejandro Cartagena
The Carpoolers series
Installation of 15 inkjet prints
55.5 × 35.5 cm (each)
Courtesy Patricia Conde Galería, Mexico City
© Alejandro Cartagena


Ronni Campana. 'Badly Repaired Cars' series 2016


Ronni Campana
Badly Repaired Cars series
Inkjet print
60 × 40 cm
Collection of the artist
© Ronni Campana



Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
261 Boulevard Raspail, Paris

Opening hours: Every day except Mondays, 11 – 8pm
Opening Tuesday evenings until 10pm

Fondation Cartier website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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