From May 30th to July 13th 2018, the Galerie Lumière des Roses, in Montreuil, is showing a new exhibition of found images by unknown photographers. An opportunity to review the remarkable and valued approach of its directors.
For more than ten years, we have been looking for images that are small only in their size. These are photographs made by amateurs, mostly silver gelatine black and white prints produced in the thousands in the course of the twentieth century.
At the beginning, we thought naïvely that the field of exploration would be limitless. Gleaned from flea market stalls or extracted from family albums, it seemed that it was enough just to open the eyes to pick them up but, over the years, we realised that the source was drying up bit by bit. Of course, our eyes have been sharpened over time, but there are other reasons for this impression of a species on the way to extinction. Called “snapshots” (the American expression meaning “instant”) or qualified by the fashionable word “vernacular”, these anonymous images have gained, over the years, a legitimacy at the core of the history of photography.
Now they are flourishing in books or hanging in museums. The collectors have become fond of amateur photography, each basing his or her collection on this or that subject; as soon as they come out of the shadows, the nuggets are spotted and besieged.
As for the photographs taken today – about three thousand images per second, posted on Instagram or other social networks – they are certainly valued, but in the absence of any discriminating selection and especially of transfer onto a stable paper support, they have every chance of disappearing as quickly as they appeared, lost forever in the depths of hard disks to which we don’t have access.
For all these reasons. The images we are looking for are becoming rare. In opening the boxes where our collection has been amassed over the years, we had to sort it afresh, to ascertain whether this fallow time had not dulled the shine that had attracted us in the first place.
After stepping back from nostalgia, a character trait often associated with these images with serrated edges, the photographic errors, the funny and other cute things, fifty photographs appeared that touched us with their grace, their imagination, their freedom. This freedom to which all photographers aspire, like André Kertesz who said, “I’m an amateur and I intend to stay that way for the rest of my life. Look at the amateurs whose sole aim is to record a memory: that is pure photography”.
So this is The rose elephant. We’re not going to launch into a long explanation of the title. In the pink that clothes the gallery, there’s the idea of the dawn, of the birth of photography. As for the elephant, that’s another story. It’s the memory of a wonderful photography, found in the innocence of the early stages, nicely sold, persuaded that we were going to find the same thing, or even its sister, the photo being by its nature reproducible. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we never found it again. It’s one of the peculiarities of these images that makes them so precious, they are unique.
Marion & Philippe Jacquier
Marion and Philippe Jacquier are Directors of the Galerie Lumière des roses, in Montreuil.
The rose elephant
From 30th May to 13th July 2018
Galerie Lumière des roses
12-14, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau