One of the most internationally famous French photographers
This exhibition is dedicated to one of the most internationally famous French photographers: Willy Ronis.
It presents his most well-known photographs, as well as less known ones.
According to Willy Ronis, ‘Photography is emotion’. One of the last representatives of the French humanist school of photography, along with figures like Robert Doisneau, Izis and Sabine Weiss. Many of Ronis’s best-known photographs are micro-narratives, portraying men and women, on the street, in ordinary, everyday activities. Today, these images, now considered to be iconic in the history of photography, translate less a specific moment in time immortalized by the photographer, than a particular way of representing a utopian humanistic vision.
Willy Ronis also portrays social injustice and focuses on the underprivileged classes of society. His sensitivity reveals their daily struggles in a precarious professional, familial and social environment.
In his photographs and texts, we discover a photographer keen to explore the world, observing all those around him, and patiently waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. For Ronis, the art of photography was about receiving images rather than looking for them; absorbing the surrounding environment rather than capturing it, and using this to create his own narrative.
Exhibition co-produced by the Jeu de Paume, Paris and the Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, ministère de la Culture, France.
Born in Paris in 1910 in a family of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, Willy Ronis grew up with a musician mother and photographer father. Music was the source of his first artistic emotions and would no doubt have been his career choice had he not become involved with photography, initially to help his father when he fell ill, and then to earn a living.
His father died in 1936, whereupon the business collapsed, Ronis had to close down the studio on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. After the sale of a first photograph to the newspaper L’Humanité in 1935, he worked as a press photographer. A committed photographer, close to the French Communist Party, he publishes his images in the French magazine Regards, but also in Point de vue or Magazine de France.
In the France of the Popular Front government, he is the witness of the great social movements of the 1930s as well as happy times in the history of his fellow citizens. His work reflects a time when the photographer is recognized as much for his technical know-how as for the quality of his images. This activity, and his natural curiosity makes him prefer the status of independent to that of agency photographer and let him quickly embrace all subjects: fashion, industry, portraits of personalities, customs and culture reports.
A free and independent photographer, Ronis always linked his personal experience to his work, which also developed and grew through contact with friends and family: portraits of Marie-Anne, his wife (including the famous Nu provençal), his son Vincent, his cats, his friends (Capa) and personalities he met (Sartre, Prévert, Brassaï, etc.) express the same poetics of the universal as the rest of his work. And so do the female nudes, that he never stopped photographing, and the self-portraits that punctuate his long and impressive career.