Art & Photography

Published on January 15th, 2016 | by Pascal Ordonneau

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« Paris, la Nuit, » A photography exhibition of Roger Schall

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Roger Schall. Photo found in L’Oeil de la Photographie.

The exhibition “Paris, at Night” presented the work of Roger Schall (1904-1995) photographer, very active as a documentary photographer, fashion photographer and publicity during the thirties and postwar period. This series of photographs taken at night in a very traditional Paris is a production of the 1930’s. Around this work, in order to accompany it or highlight it a few photos on Paris, by day or night are exposed. They were taken by Roger Schall’s contemporary photographers of the thirties and fifty but also by young artists of today.  

Boulevards_1935__Roger_Schall_Courtesy_Galerie_ARGENTIC

Boulevards 1935. Photo courtesy Galerie ARGENTIC.

This is a beautiful set of images, homogeneous that this presentation pictures of Roger Schall, where the photographer is looking for a multifaceted Paris. The flash will be prohibited, as it will be the case for most “photographers of Paris”.At night, they will be looking for all strong contrasts between the somber and the light, playing a lot on streetlights and their lighting quite at the same time violent and ghostly, on neon and drawings which they draw on roofs, in puddles or shop windows, on the black masses and the lines of light.

We shall not wonder to find that Roger Schall’s Paris, following the example of a good many of « Paris » photographers of his time, is very wet. Photos always appear to have been taken after a strong shower. On purpose: it authorizes “wet” effects, lights which decompose according to puddles, an effect of artificial brightness which contrasts with a darkness close to the black of coal and to the anthracite hardly taken out of the mine.

The lovers of this night-Paris, made by strong contrasts between black and white, punctual light and intrusive darkness will be filled. The big subjects are there: grand boulevards and their « goualantes » of neon, the big monuments between empty and dark « place de la Concorde » and the « Sacré-cœur « vibrating of light on a night pedestal. And also people. Paris without Parisians, it neither is very funny nor eloquent. Roger Schall put Parisians in his photos, who are surprised that he photographes them, unconscious that the artist is immortalizing them.

If I had been able to leave with a photo under the arm, I believe that I would have chosen the one which, on the verge of the abstraction, starts again a symphony of neon signs, as rays of light on a mourning veil.

Around Roger Schall, the Gallery put some milestones. Some very beautiful photos by Boubat, Willy Ronis and René Bovis for example. Out of them, one is really a masterpiece in terms of layout. It comes from Willy Ronis’s magic eye of. It too is from 1930, Pure marvel by the balance of the set between banisters of light and black masses.

The lightness of this staircase so typical of Montmartre contrasts with the angular and black heavy mass of a car parked against the pavement and the staircase first steps). The trivial, ” Montmartre by night “, ” the staircase “, ” the alignment of streetlights ” is erased in a construction which you would not should push a lot so that this work fires towards an abstract representation. Not far is hung on Marcel Bovis’s beautiful “classic” photo. 1930 also: kiss under the hall where play subtly the gradations of light and shadow).

Fontaine_De_La_Concorde_1935__Roger_Schall_Courtesy_Galerie_ARGENTIC

Concorde Fountain 1935. Photo courtesy Galerie ARGENTIC.

Among the recent photos, we find some nice attempts to speak again about ” Paris, at Night “. But, when Jean Vinegla proposes a ” Place Dauphine 2010 ” under the snow taken in « contreplongé » mode with streetlight and black footprints on white bottom, we cannot escape from thinking that he repeats shots which, for some, date 80 years!
We can not blame the photographers if Paris is so photogenic. We do not therefore blame Philippe Bachelor of having “shot” again the kiss of two lovers on the banks of the Seine (1996) illuminated by the inevitable lamppost (what will the photographers do when Paris streetlights cast (1910 model) will be gone?). At the bottom of the stairs, of course, there is a must : a black mass balances the effects of the light halo, as usual.

A beautiful exhibition, sensitive and classic.


About the Author

40 ans de banque chez plusieurs établissements français et anglo-saxons ; il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres sur l’économie et la banque, d’un livre de voyage, d’un roman et d’un livre sur l’Allemagne. Il écrit pour les journaux et la radio, dont les Echos, le Figaro, Huffington Post, Radio France International.



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