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Matinee: 'Blanc et Demilly' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

28 February 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the seventy-fourth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Blanc et Demilly.

The title of this short clip is really Blanc and Demilly -- 20th Century French photographers, produced by Rathbone Vision for the Rathbone Gallery's London exhibit six years ago of the photographs of Blanc and Demilly.

But the two French photographers, brothers-in-law who had married the Bron sisters (whose father was himself a photographer) and opened a studio and gallery together in Lyon, signed all of their work with both of their names: Blanc et Demilly. Théodore Blanc and Antoine Demilly. Their images, taken between 1924 and 1964, had been a guarded family heirloom until shortly before the exhibit.

They were innovators, experimenting with solarization and photomontage as well as in-camera techniques using hand-held Leica and Rolleiflex cameras. They boldly exhibited their photos alongside canvas paintings and published photography books and magazines arguing for photography as an art. They judged photo competitions and held an annual photography ball in Lyon at which they announced a photography prize.

Their work was exhibited in 2000 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris before the 2009 exhibit in London.

The Guardian published a few of the images in 2009. A Google search reveals a few more images. And there are more at La Petite Mélancolie.

It seems there was nothing they didn't think of or experiment with, anticipating many of the innovations of modern photography, both in exposure technique and the darkroom.

But one aspect of their work in which they still have not been approached is their celebration of it. We can't help wondering how we ended up with photo walks when they had already established a photography ball.

Somewhere, we have to hope, the music once played in that ballroom still wafts on the wind. Those of us who care to dance can almost feel it, after all, if not quite hear it yet.

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