For The Eye of Photography, photographic books are as crucial as an exhibition or a portfolio. They make the history and the reality of the medium. Our correspondent Zoé Island de Beauchaine has a tirelessly curious and knowledgeable take a look at the current publications.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Nicéphore Niépce Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône, Sylvain Besson, director of the museum given that 2008, has released an initial history of photography, an event of the enormous variety of this “inexhaustible” medium, informed through the museum’s collections.
With “four million pictures, more than 8,000 cams, at least twice as many devices, thirty thousand publications and technical books or books illustrated with photography”, the collections of the Nicéphore Niépce Museum have a lot to tell. This amazing collection is distinguished above all by its heterogeneity, the outcome of a work of valorization of the medium as an entire, initiated by Paul Jay, the first director of the museum, and continued by his follower François Cheval.
Throughout the years, the collections have actually been improved with pictures made by professional and anonymous people, holiday souvenirs and family albums, legal or scientific photos, postcards, marketing or pictures of daily objects, relief photos and microphotographs. The Niépce museum has likewise mostly added to the opening of the discipline to photography publications and books by being among the very first to incorporate them in its collections, whereas many individuals prefer the individuality of an initial print.
It is precisely this notion of individuality, borrowed from art history, that the museum has always refused to confine itself to. In the eyes of Sylvain Besson, the opposite “would imply excluding the concept of series for an author-photographer, the album of photographs for the amateur, the detailed publication for journalism agency, and neglecting the really essence of photography as envisaged by Nicéphore Niépce: that of the several.
Echoing Niépce, the book published by Textuel proposes to check out the history of photography through the numerous courses it has taken, from its creation to digital, offering its share of (re)discoveries. In an encyclopedic type, it traces its technical evolution in addition to that of its circulation media, its omnipresence in a limitless number of domains– fashion, advertising, press, documentary, propaganda, judiciary, science, eroticism, movie theater along with the whole intimate sphere– and lastly its apprehension as an art in its own right.
In this “other history” of photography, as singular as it is interesting, the anonymous rubs shoulders with the terrific names of photography, the artist and the craftsman turn into one, strategy and aesthetic appeals stroll hand in hand, the intimate becomes professional and vice versa.
Sylvain Besson’s book embodies fifty years of acquisitions whose heterogeneity produces richness and pays homage to the Niépce museum, which has actually continued to promote the universality of this multi-faceted medium, reacting to François Arago’s aspiration for photography: “that everyone ought to acquire it.
Besson– A history of photography through the collections of the Musée Nicéphore Niépce
Foreword by Michel Frizot
Published by Textuel
21 x 28, 360 pages
Readily available in bookstores or online