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Roger Viollet

About the French Photo Agency

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Summary

In this film we learn about the dedicated people involved with the historical Roger-Viollet Photographic Agency. Archiving and distributing some of the most memorable and outstanding work of all times, Roger-Viollet became part of the city of Paris’s, “Parisienne de Photographie”, a photographic heritage preservation and development company, in 2005.

Photographer Henri Roger took his first photograph at the age of eleven and by twenty he was an engineer and a pioneer of trick photography. The “trickster” began with variations on the self-portrait: Henri Roger made his first on 7th May 1892, calling it “Man and His Double”, and inventing the term “Bilocation” for images using the same model twice. His technique was nothing more complicated than negatives retouched, masked and printed together.

During the 1890s Roger photographed his entire family for such novelty scenes of middle-class life as in “Family” (1894), “Elegant Ladies in the Luxembourg Gardens” (1895) and “Married Life” (c. 1895).

From 1901 onwards the arrival of his children provided him with a store of participating models, and the family events became photographic ones as well. Each image catches some everyday moment in a way that makes it appealing or unlikely, and it was quite common for the six children to become twelve thanks to the magic of fakery. Henri Roger was the inventor of the “19th-century photo blog”, in which he juggles with pictorial conventions.

A vital catalyst in the creation of Roger-Viollet, Roger initiated his eldest daughter Hélène into the “mysteries of photography” and she remained bitten by the bug. On October 14, 1938, Hélène Roger and her fiancé, Jean-Victor Fischer, took over the photo shop of Laurent Olivier, located at 6 rue de Seine and founded “Documentation Photographique Générale Roger-Viollet”, today internationally known as the Roger-Viollet Photographic Agency, one of the oldest photography agencies in France.

After WWII, Roger-Viollet bought up numerous collections constituting one of the biggest photo banks in Europe by 1960. These collections span more than a century and a half of world history: major events, craftsmen, Beaux Arts, science and politics, the streets of Paris and exotic travels, and of course, famous portraits and candid moments.

This photo heritage – more than 6 million works and documents, which today belong to the city of Paris – also follows the development of photography via the works of photo studios during the Second Empire up to the era of photo reporters capturing the wars of the 20th century.