L’objet photographique — Une invention permanente



L’objet photographique
Une invention permanente

Past: April 20 → June 19, 2011

This exhibition looks at the photographic devices (pinhole cameras, lenses, etc) and the processes that are used to produce or modify ’photographic objects’ (direct positives, negatives, printing, etc), all of which go to make up the photographer’s studio.

These objects demonstrate the technological possibilities and constraints characteristic of each period, and reflect the constant changes that have taken place in the history of photography. The selected works show that the creative act of photography and technological innovation have always gone hand in hand, and that the advent of each new process has significantly transformed the visual aspect of images.

Sourced from a variety of institutions (Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Musée Carnavalet, Musée Bourdelle, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo, Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris, Société Française de Photographie, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Institut de France.) or directly from the artists themselves, the works are grouped according to particular processes and their variants, thus highlighting the links between the work of photographic pioneers and that of today’s photographers, who use alternative techniques that enable them to escape from the domination of the image industry.

By juxtaposing works made using the same processes or devices but with more than 150 years between them, by photographers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Ilan Wolff, Anna Atkins and Nancy Wilson-Pajic, Adolph de Meyer and Irving Penn, and Charles Marville and France Scully Osterman, the exhibition abandons linear chronology and focuses instead on the interruptions and continuities that have made it possible to elaborate both a specific idiom and a material history for photography, a medium that is still undergoing significant changes in the early twenty-first century.

Now that everything is digital, and with traditional photographic equipment harder and harder to come by, it is vital to take stock of the technological expertise that enables us to understand the exact nature of the works produced from the invention of the medium (1839) to the present day.

The exhibition begins with a presentation of different photographic devices and is then in two parts, one devoted to black and white photography, the other to colour. Each focuses in the same way on image capture and the nature of the image, then on printing techniques. To aid understanding of the works and processes and their significance in contemporary photography, mediators in the exhibition spaces will be on hand to answer visitors’ questions.

Juxtaposing vintage and contemporary photographs, the exhibition shows the richness of the technical vocabulary of photography, both in functional and structural terms, and demonstrates that all photographic objects are, by their very nature, unique.

Curated by Anne Cartier-Bresson, director of the ARCP (Atelier de restauration et de conservation des photographies de la Ville de Paris).

04 Beaubourg Zoom in 04 Beaubourg Zoom out

5-7, rue de Fourcy

75004 Paris

T. 01 44 78 75 00 — F. 01 44 78 75 15


Pont Marie

Opening hours

Wednesday – Sunday, 11 AM – 8 PM
Fermeture les 25 décembre et 1er janvier (fermeture des expositions à 17h les 24 et 31 décembre)

Admission fee

Full rate €8.00 — Concessions €4,50

Gratuit aux moins de 8 ans, personne handicapée, personnel de la Ville, carte presse et les mercredis entre 17 et 20h

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