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La Galerie Rouge : Jean-Philippe Charbonnier : On the edge


Jean-Philippe Charbonnier is often described as an adventurer, an intrepid reporter looking for new horizons, traveling the world for the monthly magazine Réalités, for which he was employed since 1950. However, he spent a lot of time photographing his own country, from Roubaix to Arles, passing through the Creuse and Paris, his hometown. Fascinated by his contemporaries, whether they were close or unknown to him, he used to say: “Exoticism is half a subway ticket from my home.”

On the Edge thus offers a journey through France through the eyes of Jean-Philippe Charbonnier from the 1940s to the beginning of the 1980s at a time when the country was going through profound social, economic, political and cultural transformations. Because he was on familiar ground, his photographic practice was often more contrasted, more personal, more pessimistic too. On the Edge thus refers to his intimate and critical photographic approach, carrying a solid social dimension that made Charbonnier one of the most talented and atypical French photographers of his generation.

This sometimes contradictory practice, which associates closeness to the individual and critical distance, is formally found in the way he photographed his subjects, struggling against external and internal forces, as if they were trying to escape our gaze as spectators or to get out of the framework. It is also a way of seeing the world that often distanced him from the French humanist photographic scene: rather than photographing happiness, he preferred a darker and fiercer vision of the world, devoid of nostalgia. However, his work never lacks humor and tenderness and we perceive in his photographs a complicity with his subjects and the world around him. Witness the facetious captions that he conscientiously chose for each image. Follower of long and immersive reportages, he liked to remind that “Photography is the shortest way from one man to another.”

The exhibition, which gives pride of place to unpublished images and vintage prints, revolves around a few highlights of the work of Jean-Philippe Charbonnier in France. We thus find his view of the Liberation of Paris and the immediate post-war period, these reportages on the daily life of the inhabitants of the Ile de Sein, Roubaix and the North of France in the 1950s, his uncompromising investigation of psychiatric hospitals in 1954 which caused a real awareness, and his wanderings in his neighborhood of the fourth arrondissement of Paris from 1975.


Jean-Philippe Charbonnier : On the edge
from January 28 to April 1, 2023
La Galerie Rouge
3 rue du Pont Louis-Philippe,
75004 Paris
01 42 77 38 24

Hours of operation :
11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday

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