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The best years of photojournalism in “Gamma, A story of photographers”


Gamma: a story of photographers, the story of an agency, one of the best. An Éditions de la Martinère book (Gamma : Une histoire de photographes) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It is astounding. The texts by Hubert Henrotte and Floris de Bonneville are sumptuous. Each week, L’Œil de la Photographie will publish some of the images from what was the golden era of photojournalism.

Founded in 1966, by photographers, for photographers, this new agency was to become a world leader within a few months. “Six new photographers, six new views of the world,” was Gamma’s slogan. From its creation, Gamma knew to develop and highlight photojournalism to be informative, to anticipate the news by bringing a personal view to the events. 300,000 black and white contact sheets and 200,000 color selections produced by 5,000 photographers were made over five decades. The real journalistic richness this book possesses is its quintessence. It presents the work of those who really created, constructed, and developed the agency, a company often copied but never matched.

All of Gamma’s major photos are in this book. Just like the major photographers who contributed to its history. Today, L’Œil de la Photographie is publishing a selection of Jean-Pierre Bonnotte’s best photographs.

Jean-Pierre Bonnotte is a photographer who learned everything by working in a laboratory, printing and studying the work of others. He came from Reporters Associés and joined Gamma from its beginning after an invitation from Jean Monteux. He liked the idea of getting credit  in the magazine, just like he was taken by our slogan, “Six new photographers, six new views of the world.” His big smile, his charm, and his social skills made him a lot of friends in showbiz: Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, Marlène Jobert, Mireille Darc, Jean-Paul Belmondo… He became the friend of the stars who made the whole world dream, often showing their private lives and bringing to Gamma some great exclusives. His photos, which are still often published, were the subject of many magazine covers. His collaboration with Monique Kouznetzoff let Gamma be very present in the celebrity market.

On a different note, in May of 1969, Jean-Paul caught by surprise the General Charles de Gaulle while walking in Ireland with his wife Yvonne, just after having resigned. He was not the only one to immortalize the former president of the Republic, but his photo had something extra, the JPB touch, and became a Gaullist symbol. In May of 1973, Jean-Pierre decided to stand on his own . “The split, which meant the departure of all the photographers who followed the owner of Gamma for Sygma, had exhausted its charm,” he explained. He left the agency but continued to be distributed over the Gamma network. Jean-Pierre returned to the agency in 1986, at Jean Monteux’s pressing request, to guide Gamma’s “showbiz” department and then the news with Didier Contant until 1996.

Gamma, Une histoire de photographes

Published by La Martinière


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