We learned of the death of Jean-Claude Lemagny who was one of the mythical directors of photography of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Claude Nori sent us this text.
Dear Jean Claude,
You leave discretly as you have always done.
And you leave a huge void in the world of French photography that you revitalized in the early 1970s.
At first, with your little goatee and your glasses, your impeccable suit and waistcoats, your rounded and proud bust, you impressed me. Then I got to know you when you came to the Contrejour gallery to see our exhibitions, then within the Cahiers de la photographie that we had created with Bernard Plossu and Gilles Mora, then when we were preparing your book on Creative Photography that you almost invented.
You had smart eyes, a little smirk and you enjoyed yourself when we were preparing our editorial boards. For us, you were then a friend and I liked your greedy way of delicately tying a white napkin around your neck to savor with pleasure the soup which was part of the menu in a small restaurant next to the Bibliotheque Nationale . You always asked for more!
Between 1975 and 1985, we often shared the young photographers who came to show their portfolios, a job that took us several mornings a week. You at the BnF and me at the Contrejour gallery. You were so more serious than me and you impressed by your culture by knowing how to put order in the often confused or too clichéd work of photographers. You knew how to theorize with tact and accuracy to stimulate but above all defend the author’s photography that you carried very high like a banner. You should have been seen at the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles in the salons of the Hôtel d’Arlatan bent over the prints with a circle of fans who were queuing for you to look at their works. It made me laugh a lot, this silence around you and the obligatory white gloves circulating to touch the prints. Many Americans were fighting to get to you: “I want to show you my last work” they said humbly.
I say that and I have nostalgia for that time.
We defended causes, we struggled for words, for definitions and above all to have our photographs in the Bibliotheque Nationale , proof that we were entering the holy of holies of the most beautiful collection in France and perhaps in the world. . You pulled off this formidable stroke of moving smoothly from prints to photography, struggling without counting the cost, Duke of Richelieu reigning over incredible treasures. Many photographers owe you to exist today.
You have always supported Contrejour and our exuberance, which must sometimes have irritated you, but you loved the energy that reigned there and had to be so different for you from the offices and silent archives of your illustrious house.
But in the end, you were without seeming to the most subjective of us. Thank you comrade for having existed and I will keep you in my heart as an image of tenderness.
Claude Nori was part of the Cahiers de la photographie team and in 1984 published the book Creative photography of Jean Claude Lemagny with Contrejour editions.