We learned of the passing of Sabine Weiss at the age of 97 through her Parisian gallery, Les Douches La Galerie. Today’s edition of The Eye of Photography is dedicated to this great humanist photographer. Françoise Denoyelle sent us the following text.
Sabine Weiss so present – by Françoise Denoyelle
In the early 1980s, when fall came, Photo Month also came in full swing. Jean-Luc Monterosso concocted real marathons for us. Weekly agendas sent by post listed the openings of museums, libraries, galleries and other places, some improbable. On Tuesday, the day the institutions were closed, everything went in turmoil, full of prints, meetings, catalogs. Finally photograph were shown, taken out of the boxes, exhibited. Brainstorm and effervescence. Everything had to be discovered, and found.
Sabine Weiss, with a conqueror’s gait, keen eye, would run from one show to another. At 7 o’clock an evening, meeting on the way to the Hungarian Institute. “We will never arrive before closing.” We got there and everyone looked, went. I was to see her often at other openings. She spoke loudly and yet had great restraint. At the turn of a sentence, she introduced herself as a photographer. But nothing more. And how do you know? We were (re) discovering Willy Ronis and his Sur le fil du hasard edited by Claude Nori at Contrejour (1981). A friendly apostrophe from Viviane Esder “Sabine! »Revealed her first name to me. I inquirired. “But you don’t know Sabine Weiss?” I exhibited her in my gallery ”(“ Sabine Weiss. Photographs 1950-1980 ”as part of the first Paris-Photo). I bought En passant published by Contrejour, in 1978. First pages, a huge photographer stands out. Evidence of a universe, of an empathy for the subject, of a force of life. I would like to know more. Without a project for an article, book or exhibition, what should we do? And not the slightest print to see. I kept looking for her.
The connoisseurs had nevertheless followed her from her beginnings. Walter Läubi’s Swiss magazine Camera devoted a long article to her in April 1953. Edward Steichen selected three of her photos for the legendary exhibition “The Family of Man” at MoMA in New York in 1955. Albert Plécy and Michel Tournier in their program “ Chambre noire ”which welcomed all the photography elite from 1964 to 1969, devoted a program to her (September 4, 1965). Plécy publishes it in his magazine Point de vue Images du Monde. Paul Jay exhibited it at the Nicéphore Niépce museum in Châlon-sur-Sâone in 1982, Jean Dieuzaide at the municipal gallery at the Water Castle in Toulouse in 1985, Charles-Henri Favrod at the Elysée museum in Lausanne in 1987, Sonia Bove at the National Photography Foundation in Lyon in 1989, Olivier Spillebout at the transphotographique festival in Lille in 2002. But in Paris, there was no exhibition before 1996. At 72, a retrospective was finally devoted to her at the Espace photographique de Paris, at the Forum des Halles: “Sabine Weiss. Photographer of light and tenderness “then, ten years later, in 2006, at the Museum of Modern Art in the city of Paris, then, in 2008, at the European House of Photography:” Sabine Weiss. Half a century of photographs ”
In 2004, with Martine d’Arc and Véronique Figini, we founded the association for the defense of the interests of Donors and Beneficiaries of the former Photographic Heritage (ADIDAEPP) in order to save the funds of Bovis, Kenna, Kertész, Kollar… Non-activist, not committed, Sabine Weiss joined us however, supporting actions for the safeguard and enhancement of heritage funds. She was still by our side when we founded the Association for the Promotion of Photographic Funds (APFP) in 2012. She too was considering the future of her work. Like many, too busy with recognition finally established, with more and more exhibitions and books, “I’ll see what can be done later,” she said. Finally, she chose her country of origin Switzerland and the Musée de l’Elysée to donate her archives in 2017.
In 2006, the curators of the National Library of France, Laure Beaumont Maillet, Dominique Versavel and myself organized the exhibition “Humanist Photography”. A real dialogue took place. Sabine Weiss recalled the first years of apprenticeship, in 1942, with Paul Boissonnas in Geneva and then in Paris with fashion photographer Willy Maywald. “Assistant, I had a lot to learn; to carry especially! “. In the 2000s, working with students from ENS Louis-Lumière on the Rapho agency, I came back to her and her work. She recounted her collaboration with Vogue (1952-1961), Holiday (1954-1969) and the American press, evoked her meeting with Doisneau and the Hungarian Charles (Sandor) Rado. In January 2020, for a forthcoming book on French photography agencies, I asked Sabine again about Rapho. Like Willy Ronis, her memory is not “forgetful”. She remembers Rado, the founder of the Rapho agency (1933). He left Paris in 1942 to found Rapho Guillumette Pictures in New York. “I have worked a lot with the Americans thanks to Rado. I had met him in New York. He was a man of great esteem among museum curators and the press. He found me reportages for Holiday, Life, New York Time, Fortune, US Camera. It was he who put me in touch with the curator of the Art institute in Chicago where I exhibited my photographs in 1954. ”In November 2020, I found Sabine at her Parisian gallery Les Douches for the exhibition“ Sous le sun of life ”, title chosen by Françoise Morin who, she writes,“ give the personality of Sabine Weiss. Solar, smile, energy, optimism, work ”. New photographs, happiness of surprise, enchantment of mastery.
Arles 2021, full sun on the line along the wall of the Museon Arlatan. There are crowds to discover the exhibition designed by Virginie Chardin “A Photographer’s Life”, final hello from Sabine Weiss. Like Ronis in 2009, at the ancient theater, in the splendor of the starry night, the world of photography applauds the winner of the Woman in motion prize for photography. In the garden of the Hotel Le Calendal, family breakfast with the faithful and indispensable Laure Augustins, Sabine recovers, delighted, radiant. All alive, joking, mischievous and so tired. “What about the Sabine Pocket Photo?” “Well, Françoise, they ended up thinking of me, it’s coming out, n ° 166.”