Exceptional by the abundance of portraits and the elegance of studio photos, the book Ne m’oublie pas aims to give a face to these thousands of men who came to work in France, to take them out of the group anonymity to which history most often condemns them.
No name on the back of the image, no nationality, no date either. Identity photos, large format photos in studio pose, retouched and pastelized portraits… This book was born from the discovery by Jean-Marie Donat of the photographic collection of Studio Rex located in the popular district of Belsunce in Marseille, essentially composed of photos of migrants from North and West Africa.
The book presents:
– so-called “wallet” pictures, family photos taken in the country of origin, waiting to be copied and sometimes colorized by the studio;
– identity photos taken for administrative reasons such as the application for a residence permit;
– studio photos, in the style of photographs by Malick Sidibé, taken in France to be sent to relatives back home.
These photos remained in the archives of the shop, the migrants often not having the time to pick them up before leaving the city, pressed by a job offer elsewhere in France.
The juxtaposition, selection and assembly of the 700 photographs, as well as the testimonies collected by the author Souâd Belhaddad, offer several overlapping points of view, blurring the boundary between public and private, between the history of these men and women in transit and that of a country. An administrative photograph which nevertheless reveals the intimacy of the faces in close-up, a representational photograph, full-length, rewarding but whose repetitive staging over the photos shows its fragility, and a photograph of the intimate, which was copied and modified nevertheless.
Ne m’oublie pas reinterprets the broken dialogue between the two shores of the Mediterranean by comparing the photos brought from the country of origin and those taken in France for relatives back home.
Jean-Marie Donat is a publisher and collector of photography. His collection, built up over more than thirty years, brings together nearly 40,000 photographs, ektachromes and negatives from all over the world and cover more than a century of photography history (1880-1990). It is mainly composed of amateurs photographs, anonymous people. From this work of sedimentation over the long term and introspection of this fund, Jean-Marie Donat has been building, since the 1980s, this photographic corpus with the desire to give a singular reading of the 20th century.
Souâd Belhaddad is a Franco-Algerian journalist, actress and writer. After studying literature, cinema and psychology, she produced several reportages, the first of which in Algeria received the AFJ prize for women journalists in 1994.
She published Entre-deux je, Algérienne ? Française ? Comment choisir… (2001) and SurVivantes, Rwanda dix ans après le génocide (2004) which met with great success (Prix Ahmadou Kourouma, Prix Vérité, Selection Prix Fémina). She also wrote a humorous theater show: Fatchima a des choses à vous djire.
She is now a member of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council.
NE M’OUBLIE PAS
Belsunce, Marseille 1965-1980
Texts: Souâd Belhaddad
Format: 17 x 24 cm
Price : 49,90 €
Exhibition at the Rencontres d’Arles, at Croisière, from July to September 2023