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Félix Thiollier, photographies

Thomas Galifot

He was an industralist in the ribbon sector in Saint-Etienne. At the age of 35 he decided to disolve his prosperous company and live from his investments in order to enjoy his great passion, to learn of is surrounding world and take photographs. He was right to do so since today Félix Thiollier (1842-1914) is better known for his services rendered to photography rather than to the textile industry of Forez. He was rediscovered in 1995 during an exhibition at the musée d’Art moderne of Saint-Etienne. When he died he left 18 800 negatives, 910 positive plates on glass and 920 autochromes. He was first interested in local traditions and architecture (with a beautiful series on the Bastie d’Urfé that was then falling to ruins). The catalogue shows it -the exhibition at the Quai d’Orsay is on until 10 March 2013 and recalls the rest as well: rather than sit back and find reason for exaltation in an Arcadian landscape (engine drivers, washer women, forests and ponds), Thiollier looked closely at the industrialisation of Saint-Etienne and drew up a sincere portrait of the ’black town’. For him it was also a cause for aesthetic admiration. Miners’ houses, a dump for scrap, people tredging the slagheaps, skies filled with bitumen: these images of the industrial Revolution succeeded in passing the time test.

Félix Thiollier, photographies by Thomas Galifot, Courtes et Longues/Musée d’Orsay publishing house, 2012, 224 p.,€40.

Félix Thiollier, photographies - Thomas Galifot

Review published in the newsletter #279 - from 15 November 2012 to 21 November 2012

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