Delpire has published a wonderful book devoted to the career of the celebrated publisher Robert Delpire and his relationships to his contributors. We’re going to bring you a selection of texts written by him, including some anecdotes and some of his secrets. To begin our series. here is Robert Delpire’s personal ABC.
A is for The Americans: Neither Robert Frank not I thought we were making a cult book in 1958. I’m not sure I like the word. I’m wary of formulæ and religions.
B is for Bob: I always thought it was Robert Capa’s name. But my grandmother thought otherwise and gave it to me. It was a long time ago.
C is for CNP: The happiest time in my professional life. In 1982 I accepted the role of director of the Centre National de la Photographie for two years. I stayed there for fifteen years. I’ve never regretted it.
D is for Delpire & Cie: The ampersand is essential. I would never have done anything without those I worked with.
E is for edition (publishing): I had to go through medicine to discover a passion. It’s like in the countryside. The back roads are often the richest.
F is for the Fait & Cause gallery: The pleasure of being useful. To work on social issues with Michel Christolhomme as interlocutor: a dream.
G is for Grand Prix: the awards, they’re like medals. There are those that you cherish and those you’re indifferent to. The gold medals for Sarah Moon’s films are in the first category. The “Lifetime Achievement Awards”: be they American or Japanese, have the smell of incense, of funerals, about them.
H is for Henri Cartier-Bresson: I miss him, that’s that. Pottering about in photography, there’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of him. Of the man he was. Of the intelligence he had. Beyond the talent recognised so early on. Of the constancy of his friendship and his confidence.
I is for illustrations: I can’t summarise with one name all of the illustrators. But Andree François was a great friend for fifty years. A big-hearted friend. Of many great talents and an astonishing diversity. It’s thanks to him that I produced children’s books. The Larmes de crocodile which he wrote, illustrated and did the layout is for me, a masterpiece.
J is for Jack Lang: I’ve never stopped and will never stop singing his praises. Of thanking him. For what he was. A minister like no one else. Concerned about his office. He paid attention to people. Effective like no other minister. It’s thanks to him that “Photo Poche” exists.
K is for Koudelka: Him, a monster. Of energy. Of passion. Of talent. He had, as I have previously written, a voracious appetite for seeing. And he saw better than anyone. He’s one of those meteors that go through the history of photography, free of any influence. Unclassifiable. One of the greats. A great friend, too.
L is for Lartigue: No one, more than he, encapsulated the joy of life. And he put it into his pictures. He was a haven of gentleness and kindness in a world of brutes.
M is for Memories Let’s not talk about absent friends.
N is for Neuf: With Neuf magazine, for me everything was new. A profession I had completely ignored. The discovery of a passion as unexpected as it was unusual. The discovery, too, of all those artists who became my friends, whom I haven’t abandoned but who, sometimes, have left us, as always too early. André François, Claude Roy, André Martin, Jacques Prévert and many others.
O is for Octogenarian: I’m as old as my vertebrae. Too much sport, it seems. But I loved doing it, and not to talk about it.
P is for Photography: It seems that photography is writing with light. Some photographers are dazzling. Marey, for example. I know others who are a little dull.
Q is for Qui êtes-vous Polly Maggoo? (Who are you, Polly Maggoo?): I was always fascinated by the moving image. But I realised very quickly that I didn’t have the means to play that game. William Klein was an exception. Very nice. Movie camera in hand, old Bill was still better than with a Nikon. Enough said.
R is for Recognition: This is the page where I need to deal with this topic. Our exhibition in Arles (from 7th July to 13th September 2009) and at the MEP (from 28th October 2009 to 24th January 2010) wasn’t called Delpire & Cie by accident. I decided to do it because it gave me the opportunity to thank all those, artists and craftspeople, who had worked with me for a long time.
S is for Sarah Moon: two professions that make the whole. Hers. Mine. In perfect sympathy and respect for each other. Never in competition. Speaking professionally, of course. S for feelings become a private matter.
T is for Traditionalist: No more than that. For me, a good photo doesn’t have a label.
U is for Unity: Unity in Diversity. It’s not a matter of ethics. It’s a matter of nature.
V is for voir (to see): I don’t have worn-out eyes. Lucky. I still come across young, talented photographers, more concerned with mankind than with themselves. And I have nothing against the conceptual photographers. So long as they don’t think that a photo’s quality depends on its size.
W is for Werner Bischof: Werner Bischof, I knew him a very long time ago. He was the star of the Zurich School of Applied Arts. Excellent graphic artist. Great sportsman. He was both a refined aesthete and a citizen of the world. Japan enchanted him. He had found the land of his dreams.
X is for 190 X 125: If you were to ask me to choose something from our production, I would reply without hesitation “Photo Poche” which is still being produced.
Y is for Yann Arthus-Bertrand: He did, methodically, a great work as a photographer. The thoughtful and carefully organised character of his approach made him into a pillar of the ecological cause.
Z is for Patrick Zachmann: He is a man in search of identity. Of himself. Of migrants, who come from Mali or China. He shows both the new country and the native land. This immersion gives his images a special social dimension.
Robert Delpire is a publisher, artistic director, exhibition curator and founder of the publishing house that bears his name. He lives and works in Paris.
C’est de voir qu’il s’agit…
Published by Delpire