Creeping around flea markets at dawn with a torch has never really been my cup of tea. I did attend a few auction sales, but for me these places smell all too much of mould and the death. My collection has been put together almost inadvertently, never with the rage of a real collector, except in the case of a few emblematic photo books. It has been built as a result of a relationship, often ephemeral but always true with an artist, throughout my life as a journalist, editor, and curator of exhibitions. In such a way that each of these images are rather like the calling card left by a friendly visitor. Before 1970, when we published photographs, the editorial committee or the secretary would receive the negatives which were stapled together with the text on paper. Then the graphic artist reformatted them with a soft lead pencil or taped tracing paper to them, wrote the dimensions on the back for the photogravure and sent them off to the printer. They would perhaps come back at times covered in ink, often bent, nearly always covered in fingerprints. After they were signed off for printing they were then discarded. Obviously, with the beginnings of the market and the opening of the early photo galleries in France, a significant change took place. At that time, photographic prints had not yet acquired the status of works of art that they have today. You only had to show interest in their work for the most generous of photographers to willingly give you a photo on the occasion of the publication of a portfolio... even more true when assembling an exhibition, or publishing a book. Of course, my collection carried the mark of my inclinations. A childhood friend bought a box of photographic plates and I could not wait to publish them and print the sumptuous portraits from the Studio Soler Pavia, active in our village in Tunisia around 1900. In the choice presented here, I have of course very much put the emphasis on Italy, with images from Patellani, the great Giacomelli and those of my friends Barbieri, Basilico, Berengo Gardin, Jodice, Radino, and many more still, as if proof were needed of my belonging to this land and this culture which for me is the bridge between Tunisia and France. I have made a point of putting the images of these great creators opposite my own photographs, not out of vanity, but simply because had I not known them, I would never have been able to make my own.
This article is reserved for subscribed members only. If you are already a member, you can log in here below.
Subscribe for full access to The Eye of Photography archives!
That’s thousands of images and articles, documenting the history of the medium of photography and its evolution during the last decade, through a unique daily journal. Explore how photography, as an art and as a social phenomenon, continue to define our experience of the world. Two offers are available.
Subscribe either monthly for $5 or annually for $50 (2 months offered).