Raised on the family farm in Villefranche-sur-Saône, Raymond Depardon has often told stories about it, notably in his autobiography, La ferme du Garet (1995). Yet a fuzzy area remains: what precise memories does he retain of his military service?
At twenty, Raymond Depardon, freelancer for the Dalmas photo agency, has already been professionally well-known and regularly publishes in major national newspapers and news magazines: France-Soir, Paris Match, etc. During a reportage in Algeria in 1960, he met military photographers from the newspaper Bled, who gave him the idea of serving in the magazine of the Armed Forces. Assigned to the Parisian editorial office of TAM (Terre Air Mer magazine) with the rank of corporal in July 1962, Raymond Depardon discovers a very free working atmosphere bringing together officers and conscripts from the world of arts and journalism.
As images of Raymond Depardon go by and the scrolling the articles of the magazine, decorations and stories, large and small, are emerging. That of the adventure of a military Paris Match, TAM magazine, flagship title born from the storm of the war in Algeria to better turn its back on it and consider a future to build, in which the army must reinvent itself. From the archives of the magazine arise the names of former conscript today famous Philippe Labro, Jacques Séguéla, Francis Véber, among a large team of photographers and journalists sowing their wild oats under the uniform.
For the account of TAM, between the months of July 1962 and August 1963, Raymond Depardon undertakes a real military tour of France alongside the various units he photographs the ground, the sky and the sea, thus realizing a panorama of the metropolitan territory, for training or sporting events, for social issue or institutional subjects. He is constantly experimenting with the help of the Rolleiflex Wide Angle which the magazine loaned him, he seized on film a French army engaged in the technological leap of the “Thirty Glorious” and sets the portrait of a generation: “Learn to direct infallibly your eye to the picture to be made, like a hunter looking for his prey; learn how to make the lens of your camera the instant extension of your trained eye, in a word, learn to photograph as you breathe. ”
Since their publication in the magazine, the images of Raymond Depardon have never been seen again: a singular production of a reporter among others, a drop in the ocean of hundreds of thousands of images that illustrate the magazine TAM.
For Raymond Depardon, these photographs from the armies were distant, an almost buried memory of a time when he did not consider himself author yet, just three years before the creation of the Gamma photo agency (1966) which inaugurates the birth of an independent photographic act.
This youth-only corpus, made up of negatives and contact sheets, is kept in TAM’s archives, at the Defense Communication and Production Establishment (ECPAD), heir of the cinematographic and photographic sections created in 1915, installed at the fort of Ivry-sur-Seine near Paris since 1946.
The work done on this collection and the digitization of all the photographs in 2014 brought to light an unprecedented facet of Raymond Depardon’s career: between major military maneuvers and societal subjects, the on duty photographer, tested his art with great freedom.
In tune with a generation in uniform, Raymond Depardon delivers a sensitive inventory of the France of the sixties, already marked by a soft distance and a consciousness of the territory which will be, years later, the signature of a great eye.
Cristina Baron and Lucie Moriceau-Chastagner, Scientific Curators of the exhibition
Raymond Depardon, 1962-1963 Military Photographer
May 17 to December 31, 2019
National Marine Museum
Monsenergue Square, Norfolk Wharf
October 1, 2019 to January 30, 2020
Museum of the Army Health Service – École du Val-de-Grâce
1 place Alphonse Laveran