Why are some photographs labelled masterpieces and not others? Can you give the title to an anonymous photo? A nude? An advertisement? The BnF has put together an eclectic selection for this exhibition, in an attempt to answer these questions intelligently and openly. Far from exhaustive, the choice of shots nevertheless reflects the diversity of photographic history. As such, famous shots from great 20th century artists (Man Ray, Brassai, Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus) rub shoulders with scientific studies of rare beauty, and anonymous works snapped by chance in unknown cities at unknown times. The classic definition of ‘masterpiece’ is defied by a simple focus on quality, charm and composition. Without providing a history lesson, the exhibition invites any expert, amateur or neophyte to get lost in the pleasures of discovery – as long as you leave your preconceptions at the door.
La photographie en cent chefs-d'œuvre
Arturo Bragaglia, 'L’éventail', 1928 / Archives internationales de la danse D.R. / BnF, Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra
Emile Zola, 'Médan. Autoportrait avec son chien Pimpin', 1895 / BnF, Estampes et photographie
Albert Peignot, 'Radiographie d’un volatile', 1896 / BnF, Estampes et photographie
Man Ray, 'Grand nu renversé en arrière', 1923 / © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris 2012 / BnF, Estampes et photographie
Etienne-Jules Marey, 'Saut long et élevé', 1882 / BnF, Estampes et photographie