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Valérie Couteron : My Story with the Manu


The gaze is frontal, all imbued with respect and kindness. They all came to this place steeped in history – 51 ex-employees intimately involved in the great history of a company, which was one of the 3 jewels of the tobacco industry in France from 1811. An iconographic memory today restored – updated to draw on the present an opportunity to honor the past of these 52 workers of the “Manufacture des tabacs” in Morlaix.

A trio passionate about the adventure of tobacco without fire or smoke: Thierry Seguin – founder and co-director of SEW *, Eric Foucault- curator of the exhibition had the idea to use the photos of Valérie Couteron, talented expert in social photography. To stop time and make – like André Malraux, “of the future a present that the past gives us” by superimposing the large formats and portraits of the employees of the time in the space aptly called “The Forest” . Both the beams of the Galerie du Léon, a former shelling and peeling room at the end of the 19th century, today carry natural and large-format picture rails, which mark out a unique route facing all these in situ portraits. imbued with a deep humanity. Either in the sketch of a smile or a very marked attention at the workstation for Nicole, Patrick, Denise, Marie –Thérèse, Michel,… among all the others. Time has certainly had its effect, age is there magnified by the art of Valérie, in total empathy without ever indulging in any compassion. In the interviews that Valérie wanted, Henriette, a simple worker and then an instructor, still tells it with passion, so much in her dreams that she continues to check the yield counters!

Spiritual daughter of August Sander, Valérie Couteron is for French photojournalism, what the famous German photographer was for post-war photographic creation on the other side of the Rhine.

Totally old-fashioned tiles, faded paintings on the walls in “this wasteland of the wasteland” underlines Thierry Seguin who testifies with happy conviction “everything here is in the living”, justifying a very significant scenography: “The Ouvrie-r-es- have left their blouses; their civilian clothes evoke the exterior of the Manu, their lives after the closure. Subjectivities are revealed. photographic precision marks the lines of time, exacerbates the colors of a scarf or a coat, eyes are systematically directed towards the photographer. What do they translate? Melancholy, sadness, nostalgia, anger resilience ..? This remains at their discretion. What is certain is that they anchor them in this place which still bears the marks of an extinct activity “Evidence that Eric Foucault rightly emphasizes.


Because the portraits gathered here – in this “Manu” which has become a historic monument, could have been sadly banal. But in the eye of her conscience, which is very respectful of each other’s journey, Valérie Couteron’s gaze has been equal to this place which has now become, through the magic of this exhibition, the historical setting for these life journeys. . She has once again been able to make the work of a social photograph – the noblest there is – as close as possible to human nature all imprinted with dignity and recognition combined. In this period of multiple contagions – with an obligatory mask, one should not be afraid to take advantage of the only possible contamination to share: that of the pleasure of visiting this very successful exhibition. With a view to making, in Morlaix, SEW and this inclusive “Forest” – a center of life, of dialogues between arts and artists, in partnership with the National Center for Adapted Creation.

Alain Mingam


  • The SE / cW is the association & the daily cooperation of three cultural structures:

The S for the cinema La Salamandre, the E & the C for the Entrancesort / National Center for Adapted Creation and the W for Wart, producer of contemporary music and organizer of the Panoramas festival.


Exhibition organized by SEW * and CNCA *


Valérie Couteron : Mon Histoire avec la Manu

Until January 2, 2022

SEW, Manufacture des Tabacs de Morlaix

39 ter quai du Léon, Morlaix


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