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News: Red faces in Paris as 'destroyed' Cartier-Bresson snaps resurface

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief

Reuters Image: Henri Cartier-Bresson

The celebrated French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, (for a brief biography)and here for some collected works by a close associate) is one of the most respected and treasured photographers of the 20th century. It would be fair to see that he is a "French National Treasure"!

Unfortunately, some of his prints, supposedly destroyed after a flood, are turning up on the market, according to his widow. The allegation is deeply embarrassing to the French government which was given the 551 images by one of the greatest photographic masters in 1955 and 1970.

Some time before 1991, the prints were seriously damaged by flooding while stored in the basement of the contemporary arts centre in Paris. The photographer agreed, reluctantly, that they should be destroyed. In recent years, according to his widow, Martine Francq, batches of prints from this "lost" collection have been turning up on the French art market.

The potential for profit – and official embarrassment – is enormous. Last year an original print, made by Cartier-Bresson himself, fetched $265,000 at auction in New York. "Both sellers and potential buyers should beware," Mme Franck – also a photographer – said yesterday. "It seems that the French state was doubly negligent, first in failing to look after these works and then in failing to destroy them."

The French Government, after a flood and inspection by the famed photographer, Henri Cartier Bresson, agreed to destroy all the damaged prints. However, they keep turning up for sale! One was confirmed to have been printed solely for one exhibit. Still the government claims otherwise!

Read the entire story here.
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nicolas claris

OPF Co-founder/Administrator
If only it could be for the younger photographer's benefit… but that's not the case…
Our government has no real interest for art and culture (despite the recent nomination of Fréderic Mitterand, nefew of a former President). Sarkozy does think (and said it!) that culture is not interesting as it does not get into economy…how false!

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
If only it could be for the younger photographer's benefit… but that's not the case…
Our government has no real interest for art and culture (despite the recent nomination of Fréderic Mitterand, nefew of a former President). Sarkozy does think (and said it!) that culture is not interesting as it does not get into economy…how false!
France is in an organized position to increase the role of French culture because of it's unparalleled contribution to the idea of a nation state with universally applauded principles and one of the richest music and artistic sources we have known. The school system is defined from above. So if they "got it" they could be making films that would change our ideas of what things are and could be. That would bring billions to France!

One good thing about Obama is that he's increasing funding for the arts!


Rick LeDuc

New member
I don't know much about Cartier-Bresson, but this all sounds quite scandalous. I am very curious to learn more about these photographs, and way they were destroyed to begin with. I wonder what could be so bad about them that the French government would want to delete them from history. I will have to do a little research.

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

If only such red faces could be mitigated by white balance color correction!

Best regards,


Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I feel that France has missed a great opportunity to balance the diffusion of USA culture throughout the world, unopposed except for perhaps pan Islamism. The turret is that France has cultural resources that put it into a position to dominate in spreading ideas of opportunity, justice and respect for all humans, male and female of any origin, age or disposition.

Except perhaps for the British and German Philosophers, no country has contributed more debate to building a sense of the "Rights of Man". As to art, France is a potential powerhouse. Many artists in music, painting, literature and photography had an experience in France that anchored and influenced all their future works.

Yes the French government spends little, (relative to defense) on the arts. Also, in France the ministries have control over most museums and schools, as opposed to the USA where local boards set policies and make choices. So there are not the same dimensions for different points of view and directions to take. That situation can lead to institutionalism of art and educational decisions-making.

If France funded its superior educational lycée educational system and the experience of École Des Beaux Arts in Paris and the like to making movies, we would have a major voice to balance the special effects explosions of Hollywood exports!

The French have allowed the 3 generations of north African immigrants to be educated enough to be twice as unemployed as other young Frenchman. Also France has not integrated them into society. Worse, if these young folk get to prison, a petty thief gets "reborn" as a devout, motivated and hate-filled extremist where the "Rights of Man" are so distant from his frame of reference.

France and the rest of Europe cannot just be places to celebrate art in Amsterdam, Paris, Munich and Brussels as we tourists are won't to do. It needs to look inwards to ensure that immigrants are integrated and feel the pride of citizenship that Napoleon's spread of French Law brought for the first time to the states it vanquished. Now the words are slogans but there is no "trickle down economics" of the philosophy that made France so great.

France, especially, needs to grasp it's principles like a torch of liberty it gave to the USA and illuminate its society down to the Bans Lieu where people are marginalized.

Also France should make a vigorous transformation in its art to robustly project its core values as a balance to the USA point of view which is too often based on gratuitous violence and superficiality.

If the French Government can lead the world with England in building an alternative to Boeing in the success of the Concord and the Airbus joint ventures, then why can't Europe do the same in the arts? After all, they do not have to go anywhere else for the capable brains, skills and experience. They just need private enterprise and proper government funding funding and incubator support and then show the world what can be alternatives.

So much can be done! Are the Europeans up to it!