French Photography Museum of Bièvres

I’ve never visited the French Photography Museum of Bièvres, although it is only a short trip from Paris on the RER and only a short bus ride (or a longish walk) from where I stayed on my first visit to Paris. The River Bièvre one of two streams through the small town, features in some of Atget’s photographs taken around the start of the twentieth century in the 13th arrondissement in the south of the city, but was at that time being hidden below ground, though I walked along some of its course in the city in 1984 when photographing for my project Paris Revisited – more recently published as ‘In Search of Atget‘. But I’ve yet to visit Bièvres for real, though I spent some time today both on the web site of this ‘village at the gates of Paris’ with a remarkable number of clubs for its just over 5000 inhabitants.

© 1984, Peter Marshall
Paris 13e, August 1984 Peter Marshall
One of these associations is the Photo Club Paris Val-de-Bièvre, founded in 1949 by Jean Fage (1905-1991) and his son André Fage, the news of whose death aged 85 on April 16, 2012 I read in La Lettre de la Photographie (in English.) They also founded the annual Bièvres Photo Fair and began the collection of equipment and images that became the first French museum of photography, opening to the general public in premises provided by the council in the early 1960, and in 1964 the Association du Musée Français de la Photographie was formed. The collection was  donated to the Conseil Général de l’Essonne in 1986 on condition that it remained in Bièvre and that a new museum be built to house it.

You can see the museum on its web site, and as well as viewing some on-line presentations including a general history of photography, portraits of artists by Sabine Weiss and anti-Nazi photomontages by Marinus, you can also wander for ages around images of the many items in its collection. I think there are images on line of 11759 items, and although the site is is French it is still easy to navigate. The museum is an incredible monument to the two men who founded it.

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