A Hungarian photographer delves into the day-to-day lives of France’s industrial workers from 1930 to 1960.
For the first time ever in France, the Hungarian photographer François Kollar’s dynamic oeuvre is the focus of a retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, curated by Matthieu Rivallin and Pia Viewing. The series of 130 photographs traces over 30 years of Kollar’s diverse career, beginning with his advertising campaigns for brands like Oméga and Hermès, but it’s his reporting on France’s factories and factory workers that steals the show.
From miners in the Pas-de-Calais region to the mouth of a tunnel in Rouen, Kollar’s work explores France’s industrial past, showcasing the evolution of techniques and technology between 1930 and 1960. He published more than 2,000 of these photographs between 1931 and 1934 alone, exploring the day-to-day lives of blacksmiths, miners and more across the country.
Throughout his career, Kollar made use of photographic techniques like solarisation and double exposure to compose images that challenged the traditional way of doing things. It’s this particular sensibility, and mastery of technique, that is firmly on display in the exhibition. The show also includes Kollar’s experimental self-portraits, taken inside his Parisian studio, which were inspired by the work of Man Ray and fellow Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy.
In presenting Kollar’s extraordinary archive, the exhibition allows the viewer to discover a formidable photographer and observe the profound transformations that took place in in France’s working world.
TRANSLATION: MARIA THOMAS