When you think of the French New Wave, you think of the revolt against the staid cinéma de papa, the documentary-like sequences shot on locations with tiny crews and portable cameras, the discontinuous editing, and the scrappy homages to Hollywood classics. But many of the images that immediately come to mind—Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg strolling and flirting down the Champs Elysées in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless or Jeanne Moreau racing her two lovers across a bridge in François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim—were not shot by the directors themselves but by on-set photographers whose work would grace posters and magazine and book covers for decades before being disseminated across a thousand Tumblrs. And chances are, those stills were shot by one of two photographers, Raymond Cauchetier and Georges Pierre. Starting Thursday, and on through September 16, around 100 of Cauchetier’s and Pierre’s prints will be on view in the exhibition ICÔNES – From the New Wave to the Seventies at Galerie Joseph in Paris.
In 2015, on the occasion of a new book and another exhibition of Cauchetier’s work, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody called him “the auteur of set photographers.” Cauchetier, who turned ninety-eight this year, learned to capture the crux of a scene on the fly during his years as a photojournalist and then honed his storytelling skills as a creator of photo-novels. For Brody, the crucial shoot in Cauchetier’s career as a chronicler of the New Wave was Breathless. Cauchetier aimed his lens at Godard as often as he did at Belmondo and Seberg and, “rather than merely taking publicity stills showing the actors in their positions in each scene, he created, in effect, a photographic documentary of Godard’s way of working.”
Pierre, who had taken on small roles in films such as Jacques Becker’s Rendezvous in July and Christian Stengel’s Rome-Express in the late ’40s, began his career as photographer in 1960 on the sets of films by, among others, Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, and Louis Malle. His shot of Belmondo and Anna Karina leaning out of their cars for a kiss in Godard’s Pierrot le fou was already iconic, but it became truly immortalized when it was used for Flore Maquin’s poster for this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The exhibition, which also features photos from the sets of films by Claude Chabrol, Agnès Varda, and Jacques Demy, naturally has a catalogue, and you’ll find an English version of Philippe Garner’s foreword at The Eye of Photography.
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