FROM PARIS TO VENICE: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY BY WILLY RONIS

“All the attention is fixed on a unique moment, almost too good to be true, which can evaporate in the next second and provokes a feeling that is impossible to obtain using staged artifices.”     

— Willy Ronis, June 1956

Reporter, industrial photographer and illustrator, Willy Ronis (1910–2009) was one of the key figures of twentieth-century French photography. For eight decades, from the 1930s to the 2000s, he pointed his camera lens at the French people, criss-crossing the streets of the capital or the south of the country with a perpetually-renewed pleasure. A photographer of joyful happenstance, Ronis captured the “slices of everyday life” of his family and friends, such as his wife Marie-Anne or his sonVincent, but also strangers who he came across while taking a detour through the streets of Belleville. A member of the Groupe des XV, he vigorously and passionately defended the career of photographer. In 1951, his work gained broader recognition during an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, where it was shown alongside works by Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï, Doisneau and Izis.

The photographic prints in this exhibition are on loan from the Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine collection, which houses the 108,000 negatives, 9000 slides, 20,300 prints and 6 albums of the photographer’s reference prints, as well as his contact sheets, archives (diaries, handwritten texts, personal and professional letters) and library. Ronis always considered the context in which his works were reproduced as being crucial, along with the accompanying notes. Therefore, some of the most important works on display here are coupled with comments or quotes from the photographer, drawn from the six photobooks that he published beginning in 1985.

Carefully selected from the enormous oeuvre Ronis left behind, our exhibition offers an overview of the famous photographer’s work, the photographic genre he helped to create and the iconic views and pictorial compositions that assisted formulating the romantic imagery of Paris and other places that we hold dear today. This project is a collaboration between the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong kong and Alliance Française in Hong Kong and the Jeu de Paume, a National Museum in Paris. We would like to thank all of the team members for our fruitful collaboration and express our gratitude to the French consulate, BNP Paribas and Le French May for their generous support.

— Co-curators: Matthieu Rivallin and Florian Knothe


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