Arles, July 6, 2023. Association pour la Promotion des Fonds de Photographie (APFP) press conference
Françoise Denoyelle, President of the APFP:
“Almost 20 years ago, the ADIDAEPP and then the APFP fought to preserve and promote photographic collections. It was a difficult affair. Jean-Claude Lemagny was a director of these associations from the outset, and he accompanied us to the Ministry, wrote letters to support us, and organized meetings. We owe him this tribute, which is at once sensitive, intimate and familiar, and at the same time a tribute to the man of photography and the great servant of the State that he was. He played a major role in enriching the holdings of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Without him, the BN would never have had the collection of American photography it has today; without him, it would not have the collection of French and international photography from the 70s and 90s. At the same time, Jean-Claude was a critic who wrote for Cahiers de la photographie, and who supported French photography in his institution, which was not all that favorable to photography. He had a hard time setting up an embryonic exhibition space at the BN. He also played an important role in setting up and promoting the festival that brings us together today. He threw all his institutional weight behind Clergue, Dieuzaide, Rouquette, Brihat and a few others.
Bernard Perrine, photographer, journalist and director of the APFP:
I started, or Lemagny started with me, that is, he was appointed to the BN in photography, even though he knew nothing about it at all. We met him once or twice at the 30 X 40 club, in 1969. He came into Denis Brihat’s workshop with Jean-Pierre Sudre in Bonnieux.Lemagny was starting to take an interest in photography, he was there with us, he took part in Michel Tournier’s program “Une chambre noire” – which is lost, by the way – and so that’s how I first came into contact with Lemagny.I saw him again very quickly, as he brought a certain number of photographs I had taken in May 68 into the BN collections.We saw each other regularly, and then he came to Arles, where he himself set up an institution called portfolio reading, meaning he invented portfolio reading at the Arlaten.Year after year, photographers and students got into the habit of showing their work to Jean-Claude Lemagny.He encouraged some to make books, etc., and he set up a small gallery – important because he presented a number of photographers – in the little street just opposite the Bibliothèque Nationale, for 3-4 years.Afterwards, we took over the premises.
Véronique Figini, historian, APFP administrator:
He even had the idea of setting up a gallery in New York, to showcase French photography.
Anne Clergue, gallery owner, daughter of Lucien Clergue:
I have a lot of memories of Lemagny, but what struck me the most was that my father would always say to me, “Jean-Claude Lemagny loves photography so much that a lot of photographers gave him photos, and he put them in the Bibliothèque Nationale collection. He had an exceptional sense of duty.
Lemagny, great state commissioner.I discovered 1930s photography at the BN, and opened a book by Kertész that read “À Jean-Claude Lemagny, avec toute mon affection, Kertész” (“To Jean-Claude Lemagny, with all my affection, Kertész”).It was a book given to him personally, signed by Kertész, and was in the collection.His wife, Anne Biroleau, has announced that his personal archives have been transferred to the BN and will be the subject of academic research.F. :
I’ve seen Jean-Claude’s institutional collection, which was already extraordinary 10-15 years ago.
B.P.: I took a photo of Jean-Claude Lemagny that Anne (Biroleau) considers exceptional. It was here in Arles in 1973, where Jean-Claude Lemagny was photographing.
Donatien Rousseau, photographer:
I met him in the ’80s, when he received me at the BN, but I didn’t actually know him. A friend of mine told me: “But you should have a legal deposit, I didn’t even know what that was.So I made an appointment and stayed with him for most of the afternoon. I’d brought about twenty prints with me, and he looked at them and kept 2 or 3.We exchanged letters. When he died, I wrote a small text in my local weekly newspaper, which I’ll send to you.
We’re going to make a little anthology and put it on the APFP website.R. :
I’d just like to finish on a point of detail: I think that having an engraver for a father must have helped his sensibility to become attached to a certain type of photography, where matter is very present.F. :One explanation might be that he was brilliant at 18th-century engraving, and I think that Jean Adhémar, his director at the time, saw a competitor coming and said, “We’ll give him photography. In 1968, I have the feeling that it was a sidetrack, except that it turned out to be a flagship.
Josette Gautrand, wife and successor to Jean-Claude Gautrand:
There’s another Jean-Claude, who also knew Jean-Claude Lemagny, of course. It was in ’68, Jean-Claude was in Marseille for the Cantini prize, on the jury was Lucien (Clergue), there was Doisneau, Brihat, Sudre, and I’m certainly forgetting others, and along came Jean-Claude Lemagny, who had just been nominated, and who knew nothing about photography. And he said to Jean-Claude (Gautrand), verbatim: “I’m glad to come across such nice people”, and “between us, Jean-Claude, we’re going to help each other”.
In the early years, Jean-Claude (Gautrand) often drove down to Arles with Jean-Claude (Lemagny), and he’d make the trip with him, and Jean-Claude would say to me, “It’s fascinating because we’re talking about photography, of course, and he was discovering things, and Jean-Claude (Gautrand) would explain things to him, and he’d say to me, “When we got to Lyon, not another word, he’d fall asleep.He’d finish the trip on his own.
There’s this image of the Etats généraux de la photographie, Bernard, that you can comment on, because there was a lot of militancy at the time.
Yes, it’s normal that Lemagny should be part of this picture, since Jack Lang had asked me to bring together all the people who were important in photography in France.
F.:And Jean-Claude Lemagny, with a piece of paper, was always taking notes, in his broad, elongated handwriting. I never saw Jean-Claude without a piece of paper, without taking notes; he always needed a table to take notes. Everything is kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale.
F.D.:We’ll be paying a more substantial tribute to Jean Claude Lemagny in Paris at our next general meeting in September, but paying him tribute in Arles, where he first walked, was a must.