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Editions Capricci : Philippe R. Doumic, under his gaze the spark


In the Sixties, the photographer Philippe R. Doumic, who died in 2013, produced numerous portraits of the rising stars of the French cinema: Godard, Bardot, Truffaut, Moreau, Belmondo, Deneuve… An eye of rare talent, some of his images have become iconic without his name being mentioned. Philippe R. Doumic, sous son regard l’étincelle is a sensitive portrait, produced by his documentary filmmaker daughter, coupled with an investigation carried out by a collector, which revives the spark of this unjustly eclipsed artist, it is released today on DVD and made following the book Philippe R. Doumic, l’œil du cinema released last October.

Laurence Doumic-Roux is the daughter of Philippe R. Doumic, she is the author of the following text.



Behind the lens, “ the artist ” is you

As a child, I grew up surrounded by your faces, they inhabited your photographic laboratory in large format.

Actresses and actors: Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac, Annie Girardot, Lino Ventura, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Daniel Gélin, Jean Rochefort, Philippe Noiret, Danièle Delorme, Marie Laforêt, Maurice Ronet, Jean-Claude Brialy, Mireille Darc, Sami Frey, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michel Piccoli, Marlène Jobert, Jean Yanne, Marie Dubois, Bernadette Lafont, Macha Méril, Jacques Charrier, Marina Vlady, Françoise Fabian, Marie- France Pisier, Claude Jade, Anny Duperey, Anna Karina, Alexandra Stewart, Jean-Pierre Léaud and many others…

The filmmakers: Marcel Carné, René Clair, François Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy, Yves Robert, Bertrand Blier, Jean-Pierre Mocky…

They look at the lens without ever really posing. They sometimes have a cigarette in their hand, a pet in their arms, a book, a favorite object, an accessory with them. The looks are soft, mischievous, dreamy, voluntary, sulky, seductive, offered or more interior. They are sometimes in the studio, but more often at home, in the street, on vacation, in a car, on a bicycle, on a boat… Willingly moving or easily immobile.

On these images that ignited my imagination, the gaze of the child that I was then always rests. Then come the memories attached to it. What you told me about your sessions with the artists.

You told me little about you as a photographer. When I asked you about your profession, you replied that it was neither an art nor a job (yet we lived off of it), but a passion, because the best photo was always to come. You told me the subtle story of your encounters through personal anecdotes. Thanks to you, I was in the secret of the gods: Gérard Philipe, Michel Simon, Bourvil, Jean Marais, Louis de Funès, Michèle Morgan, Delphine Seyrig…

Behind your photos, I never stopped questioning the photographer of the time, the young man, the stranger who was not yet my father. You were sometimes younger than your famous role models. You were shy and frank, discreet and enthusiastic, attentive and directive. You were probably impressed, but your sensitivity, your honesty allowed you to naturally establish a climate of trust, to create the conditions for genuine complicity.

You never tried to impose stagings on the artists, they interested you for what you guessed about them. You liked going beyond the performances. Behind the image, you sought to achieve what you called a “true photo”, you attached yourself to personalities and your photos without pretense were often audacious, original, offbeat.

Some have become emblematic: Jean-Luc Godard looking at the film of his film through his dark glasses, Brigitte Bardot curled up on a kart, Jean-Paul Belmondo dreaming, a cigarette in the corner of his lips. Whether they are taken on the spot or naturally organized, they capture us with the sparkle of a look and a gesture that you capture.

We are in the 60s, then you worked for Unifrance. The resounding institution worked with unequaled success to promote French cinema in the world. It was the golden age, the consecration of pre-war stars, the emergence of new stars, the eruption of the New Wave. For a decade, your photos and those of a few others proclaimed the incandescence of the seventh art in France.

In the 1970s, the cinematographic parenthesis slowly closed. You became a reporter-photographer for numerous publications (mainly for the women’s magazine Femmes d’Aujourd’hui), then you worked for art galleries, you looked at works and you transmitted to them your spark of portraitist, sublimating the material by the image, thanks to techniques that only you knew.

At the end of the 90s, you settled permanently in the village of Souvigny, in Sologne, with my mother. She had Alzheimer’s disease. You wanted to watch over her memory, in the house of happy memories. You took your laboratory furniture and photos with you. You put them away, carefully sorted and listed, in a small dark room. Over the years, the room filled with objects. You lived from day to day, alongside your beloved who was slowly forgetting you. Little by little your photos fell asleep behind things. The weight of the present occupied all the space, hiding your work.

On December 6, 2013, a few years after my mother, you suddenly disappeared. I numb the pain by filming everything that brought me back to you. I filmed everything.

Everything, except perhaps the essentials. Until the day when…

The house had too many guests, I needed to arrange a bed in your secret room, a space in your chaos. Sorting, tidying up, banishing the accessory, keeping the essentials. Getting closer to the past, finding the photographer. A hundred files and three large boxes resurfaced. I opened them and found images that had remained in the shadows for almost sixty years. They brought me back first to my childhood, to you, to the life before, full of promise. And then there was the expressive beauty of your photos, inseparable from your models. I showed them to relatives, they were dazzled.

Photos of you appeared on Internet, where did they come from? The fund, the prints, the original negatives, everything is here. I am thinking of Unifrance Films, did they kept prints of your photos? I meet Sébastien Cauchon from Unifrance and Bernadette Caille, an iconographer who found my contact details. Sébastien encourages me to get closer to the artists to learn more about these images from the past, some of which seem so modern. We strived to have your work rediscovered by a wide audience.

From this meeting were born several exhibitions and a documentary film: Under his gaze, the spark – which I had been planning to shoot with you for a long time, and which I probably postponed out of modesty – broadcast on OCS and TV5 Monde channels. Both the man and the artist whom you are, so faithful was the inspired photographer to the dispositions of the man. Sensitivity, generosity, discretion, simplicity, but also frankness, determination, discernment, fortitude and a solid character. The witnesses (artists, journalists, members of your family), those who knew you, those who seek to remember you, get lost in your photos, evoke the past, give me their keys, without ever completely deflowering your mystery.
I have kept in memory and recorded in notebooks your observations. The sharpness of your gaze, the astonishing complicity that you weaved with the artists who made you a photographer “apart”. Your photos have been able to capture these moments of abandonment where the model renounces her image to reveal herself to the point of purity.

Behind the lens, “the artist” (a word you didn’t use) is always you. I guess the man and the professional that you were in the early 60s, a few years before I was born. You were the age of my children, your grandchildren, and today, as I revisit your life before me, I feel like I’m mothering you like a son.

Your photos, this treasure that you passed on to us, your personal and family archives, act on me like a revealer. In this bath of wonders appears the portrait of the man whose genius was both so close to us and so secret.

Laurence Doumic-Roux

Laurence Doumic-Roux is the author and director of numerous documentaries. Among these: Section enfants sauvages (2007), selected at Cinéma du réel, De l’autre côté de la route (2011), Les Tribus de la récup (2016), Nos voix sont liberté (2020).


Éditions Capricci

Philippe R. Doumic, sous son regard l’étincelle

Philippe R. Doumic, l’œil du cinema

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