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Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau : Look! 150 years of photography books for children


Until May 31, the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau presents an exhibition entitled Regarde ! 150 ans de livres de photographies pour les enfants. Laurence Le Guen, its curator, wrote this text.

Born in the 19th century, photography invaded books very early on, in order to be able to be effectively distributed to as many people as possible. Far from reserving this distribution channel for adults, photographers saw it as an opportunity to conquer a new audience: children. Collaborating with writers, they enthusiastically tried their hand at creating works for young people, and demonstrated great inventiveness in creating fiction, learning books or innovative albums based on their images.

These so-called photoliterary creations reflect their era, bear witness to the variety of educational, aesthetic and political trends, but also to the technical advances which accompany the development of photography.

For a long time, photography was the unloved part of children’s books. Even today, photography remains marginal in children’s literature and the photo-illustrated book still suffers from a lack of recognition. However, in recent years, we have rediscovered the importance and variety of this abundant production. We realize that many great photographers have actively contributed to its history: Ansel Adams, Laure Albin-Guillot, Claude Cahun, Edward Curtis, Dominique Darbois, Robert Doisneau, Hannah Höch, Frank Horvat, André Kertész, François Kollar, Ergy Landau, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Thérèse Le Prat, Duane Michals, Annette Messager, Sarah Moon, Marc Riboud, Alexander Rodtchenko, Cindy Sherman, Emmanuel Sougez, Edward Steichen, William Wegman, for whom these books are fully part of their works.

Moreover, titles signed by the masters of photography are reissued and now appear on the shelves of children’s libraries. Thus, the assemblages of heterogeneous objects by the surrealist photographer Claude Cahun (1894-1954) for the Cœur de Pic are once again accessible. The fur of animal photographer Ylla’s (1911-1955) cubs is silkier than ever. And young readers can now admire the depth of black and white images by Japanese photographer Eiköh Hosoe (born 1933) in Taka-Chan and Me.

The Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau today invites the public to rediscover the history of this production rarely presented to the public by institutions.

Regarde ! 150 ans de livres de photographies pour les enfants offers visitors the opportunity to explore around a hundred works published from the mid-19th century to the present day. Designed for children as well as adults, the scenography offers a chronological journey, going from 1866 to 2023 and allows you to discover the first works of the genre and then the evolution of the children’s photography book in Europe and the United States. The tour also details in the form of a focus some structuring categories of photoliterature for children: the picture book, the cinema book, the storybook or even the travel book.

Yesterday or today, these books have marked several generations and shaped many perspectives. As such, they are an integral part of collective history and deserve to be discovered or rediscovered.

Laurence LeGuen
Exhibition curator


Regarde ! 150 ans de livres de photographies pour les enfants
From March 1 to May 31, 2024
Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau
1 rue de la Div. Général Leclerc
94250 Gentilly

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