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Contrejour : Nouvelle Photographie Française 70’ by Claude Nori



The first issue of the magazine Contrejour came out in July 1975 for the Rencontres de la photographie in Arles, which were historic and helped to open a debate on the new photography. Most of those gathered there who, turning their backs on the prevailing conformism, on the masters of the past, on failing cultural institutions, wanted to make way for young and new ideas. The presentation of our newspaper Contrejour took place in the famous courtyard of the hotel L’Arlatan, the poet André Laude surveyed the crowd, urging them to subscribe to fight against capitalism and masters of all stripes. The cover was unequivocal. We could see the photographer Roger Vulliez symbolically doing hara-kiri by slashing his stomach with a dagger which also cut out the black edge of the photograph. Around this image, we had handwritten a veritable manifesto claiming the political role of the photographer and his importance to the other arts. Critics and journalists from the most important dailies of the time, such as Michel Nuridsany from the Figaro, Martine Voyeux from the Quotidien de Paris, Hervé Guibert from Le Monde and André Laude from Nouvelles littéraires, to name but a few, wrote about the movement which seemed to respond to their common desire for change.

Returning to Paris, surprised by the number of young people who came to the gallery to show us their images, I decided to bring together emerging authors of all trends in a book and an exhibition over three editions (Current photo in France 1976,1978,1980) then, immediately after, I published the first books of Guy Le Querrec, Martine Franck, Bernard Descamps, Claude Raimond-Dityvon, Arnaud Claass, Jean Gaumy, or the Mexican Journey of Bernard Plossu. I did not neglect the elders, somewhat forgotten, whose vitality, experience, sometimes political commitment, could be serious creative references if we approached them in a more modern, uninhibited way. Édouard Boubat, Willy Ronis and Sabine Weiss represented a typically French movement that was both humanist and poetic from which we could draw inspiration. In 1981, the chips were down. The new photography was in orbit and had made its metamorphosis, fully matured. The National Photography Foundation had just opened its doors in Lyon, Jean-Luc Monterosso finally filled a gaping void by creating the Photographic Space of Paris (then the Month of Photography copied all over the world) which honored the dynamics of foreign countries, finally new galleries spotted authors, began to structure their works and to speculate on a market still in its infancy. Photographic criticism began to impose itself with Les Cahiers de la photographie, directed by Gilles Mora, which was joined by writers, artists of all persuasions, philosophers (Henri Vanier, Denis Roche…) who in turn inspired young students. Jean-Claude Lemagny, within the Bibliothèque Nationale, while fulfilling his role as curator, gave the benefit of his experience and his critical eye to many artists. Above all, he proved to be the indefatigable theoretician of contemporary photography. Festivals in the provinces took an interest in regional cultures and the need to bring artists closer to the local population and vice versa. Supported by small publishers, photography operated a social and sentimental link for which the city became an essential territory of creativity. Another era was beginning!

It seemed essential to me to focus on this short period, so dense, excessive, which saw the eruption of many imaginative artist-authors, devoid of prejudices, animated by this sole desire to express themselves with images and to invent a new language. If some did not become famous, their talent was not in question, but their modesty or the vagaries of life made them take other directions. Others, perhaps a little luckier, better structured and with that bit of ambition that makes the difference, marked the successive decades until today.

Their images together form a very inventive and artisanal French polymorphic landscape before the dematerialization of photographs and new distribution channels arose. We will see there, no doubt, the body revealed in all its aspects, sexualized, fantasized, animated, questioned at a time of liberalization, but also take shape itself, metamorphosed into decoration, into long lines, and merging with the materials, shadows and blacks and whites.

But, of course, these are only photographs, mirrors open to our imagination and our inner theatre. Today, having reached a turning point of its metamorphosis, photography undoubtedly needs to rediscover its roots and a certain madness.

Claude Nori


Carole Naggar, Coline Olsina, Hervé Le Goff and Claude Nori
Format : 24 x 31 cm
244 pages, hardcover
ISBN: 979-10-90294-52-3
Prix : 40 euros

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