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Emile Zola – photographer !

June 5, 2010
Une vue de nuit, la Tour Eiffel et le Pont Iéna.

Eiffeltower by nite. 1900

In my opinion, you cannot say

that you have seen something thoroughly,

if you have not taken a photograph of it.


Emile Zola

Following a few typed words, a name or a photo posted on a blog, the internet can  sometimes take us on a fascinating journey back into time…

Randomly searching for the exact French original of a quote by Emile Zola read in a blog (i have since forgotten where and what..) I found this  interesting quote on photography made by the famous writer .

(“A mon avis, vous ne pouvez pas dire que vous avez vu quelque chose à fond si vous n’en avez pas pris une photographie.”)

Forgive me if the translation sounds clumsy (thoroughly for ‘à fond’?) but when I read this, I was quite confused. Was the man being ironic ? Certainly, the author of ‘The Belly of Paris’ and ‘germinal’, chronicler of the Industrial Revolution and the miseries it brought on the people belonging to the lower classes in 19century France could not mean that literally ?

Emile Zola and his point&shoot

A man of so many words, a main founder of  European Realism, whose oeuvre lives from the detailed descriptions letting the reader emerge deeply into the story, wouldn’t he despise the new technique of photo-taking as a mere superficial view of any scene he otherwise made us live through his books, even still today ?

Well, no. Emile Zola was a passionate photographer of his time, certainly more than just an amateur, and he consecrated himself fully to the new media in the end of his days. He took thousands of photos, as I found out, 7000 plates in 7 years !

For late 1800s, a large collection like this in a private household would have been like today’s picture hoarding photo geek (hands up!) – only even a couple of terabytes will take so much less space.

Many of the photographs and negatives are still in the hand of his family. I found this set of photos that were part of a exposition in Toulouse, France, probably last year.
It’s worth a visit for many reasons. No matter if you are fascinated by the man itself, or by history in general, and photography in particular, these photos are a delight to discover and explore.

Here some of my personal favorites :

Daninos transportant Albert  Laborde sur son quadricycle à moteur.

Quatricycle à moteur - I want one!!

La Grande Roue fonctionnant à la vapeur. Actuellement à Vienne.

Steam driven big wheel in Vienna.

Bohémiennes près de Médan. "Les filles sauvages".

Gipsies in the South of France

Jeanne Rozerot.

a very classic portrait, of his longtime mistress, and mother of his children, Jeanne.

Diptyque: Jeanne

From the private collection..

Jeanne.

Check out that hair!

We're still losing our teeth this way. Only younger.

Jacques.

Proof: Teenagers already sucked in 1900

La Tour Eiffel et le Palais de l'Electricité.

Touristic scenery - I was there, too!

Les jeux des enfants.

"Childrens games" - hey, the poor birdie!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 21, 2010 15:50

    I have just discovered your blog-I think through a comment you made at Iconic Photos blog and I’m loving it! I had no idea Emile Zola was an amateur photographer and actually took some pretty good ones too!

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