Belleville Ménilmontant. Photographs by Willy Ronis. Claud Arthaud, editor. Type design by Roger Excoffon. B. Arthaud, Paris, 1954. 96 pp. First edition.
Vol. II in the collection "Les Imaginaires". Paper over board. Original acetate jacket. 93 gravure reproductions printed by Braun & Co.
Willy Ronis is one of the last of the surviving documentary photographers in the humanist tradition of Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson. During the 40s and 50s he was a prolific chronicler of many corners of French social life, especially the working people of Paris. He tended to wear his politics on his sleeve, often photographing strikes, demonstrations, occupations of factories and the like. For this reason, he also kept his distance from the American and British press. In this scarce volume, Pierre Mac Orlan offers his paean to the authenticity of these working class neighborhoods of Belleville-Menilmontant. Ronis discovered the area through Daniel Pipart, a painter and friend of his wife, who kept a studio there. He visited and photographed regularly from 1947-1950, with the aim of one day making a book from the images.
Ronis's images, like countless Realist artists before him, aim to capture the poetry of the streets. Ever respectful of his subjects, Ronis's gaze is always affectionate and discrete. Unlike many documentary photographers, who search out freaks and weirdoes, Ronis seeks out the typical and the ordinary. Yet, beneath the surface, one senses a subtle sense of melancholy and muted nostalgia. A masterpiece of book design and typography! The images contained in Belleville-Menilmontant are certainly among Ronis's finest and provide an essential point of entry into his work.
Fine-; tight, square binding and clean pages; minor wear to extremities; slight bump and small chip to crown of spine; a few of small chips to acetate jacket; edge crease to one fold-out plate. Personal library stamp on front flyleaf.