Treasure hunt in the black and white photographs of the BnF

The Great Wave in Sète (1857), by Gustave Le Gray. BnF, Prints and photography

In 300 photos, the François-Mitterrand site sweeps the genre from the first prints to today. Big names and some curiosities.

The number can make visitors dizzy: 206 photographers from 36 countries, or 300 photos to hang on the picture rails. And this is only a small part of the large photographic collection that the National Library. Even removing the color shots, this leaves a lot of iconic images to recall or new ones to discover. This is the challenge that the four curators of this exhibition soberly titled “Black and white: an aesthetic of photography“. In this profusion, where to put your eyes? What to distinguish? Which wires to pull?

Firstly those of a black and white art which had its quarters very early in the National Library. From the beginnings of photography, in 1848, the image department founded in the 17the century from the collections of Louis XIV is interested in this new medium. And has never stopped being interested in it since. “It’s not a finished story, it’s a story in progress,” says Sylvie Aubenas, who heads the dedicated department on…

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