MARC RIBOUD

As obscure and as far removed from reality as this might appear. Suppose you are seriously interested in your photography. In that case, the history of photography is something that you should not avoid—introduced to the work of Marc Riboud in a conversation with Patrick de Mervelec, himself an accomplished photographer who was born and raised in France now for a long while resident in South Africa. These photographs are just a small sample of some of the work that Marc undertook, and that should instil an appreciation of the documentary style of photography that still exists to this day.

It was at the age of 14 that Marc Riboud took his first photographs with his father’s Vest Pocket Kodak. The camera proved to be a lifelong license to roam, investigate, analyze and appreciate our multi-faceted world. An engineer by training and trade, Marc Riboud, at an early juncture in his career, took a week off from work for the exclusive purpose of taking pictures. This fateful seven day excursion of picture-taking ignited a wanderlust & he consequently never returned to the factory that confined him.

Everything Riboud was to learn about the job of photographing came from the famed Magnum crew, comprised of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and Chim (David Seymour). He met the troupe in 1951 and was taken under the wing of Cartier-Bresson, who emphasized in his teachings the intricacies and make-up of composition. (Oddly, it is learned that, Cartier-Bresson “forbade” Riboud to leave his engineering position at the factory for the sake of Photography.) In 1953, Riboud became an official member of the Magnum Agency and eventually become one of its officers.

Between 1955 and 1986, Marc Riboud would travel the globe. Unlike many photojournalists whose visitations generally extend only within the confines of their given assignment, Riboud on the other hand took the proverbial stroll. From 1955-1960 he would travel the Near East, the Far East, India, Nepal, China, the Soviet Union, and take a motor tour from Alaska to Mexico. He spent 1960-1970 documenting the people and activities in Africa, Algeria, China, North and South Vietnam, and Cambodia. Between 1970 and 1980 he would return to the Near East and the Far East and explore Poland and Czechoslovakia. In 1979 Marc Riboud left the Magnum Agency. Since that time he has revisited the breadth of Asia and Europe and eventually resettled in his homeland of France. Marc passed away peacefully 30 August 2016.

Marc Riboud has been witness to the atrocities of war (photographing from both the Vietnam and the American sides of the Vietnam War), and the apparent degradation of a culture repressed from within (China during the years of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution). In contrast, he has captured the graces of daily life, set in sun-drenched facets of the globe (Fès, Angkor, Acapulco, Niger, Bénarès, Shaanxi), and the lyricism of child’s play in everyday Paris. A man of the world with the eye of a poet, Marc Riboud’s photographs are a vignette of the lives of many; brushing against the souls of culture.

Marc Riboud (24 June 1923 – ) is a French photographer, best known for his extensive reports on the East: The Three Banners of China, Face of North Vietnam, Visions of China, and his most recent, In China.

Born in Lyon, France, Riboud went to high school there and made his first picture in 1937. He was active in the French Resistance from 1943 to 1945, then studied engineering at the Ecole Centrale from1945 to 1948. Until 1951 Riboud worked as an engineer in Lyons factories, then became a freelance photographer and in 1952 moved to Paris to meet Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, the founders of Magnum Photos. His ability to capture fleeting moments in life through powerful compositions was already apparent, and this skill was to serve him well for decades to come.

In 1957 he was one of the first European photographers to go to China, and In 1968, 1972 and 1976, Riboud made several reportages on North Vietnam and later traveled all over the world, but mostly in Asia, Africa, the U.S. and Japan.

Riboud’s photographs have appeared in numerous magazines, including Life, Géo, National Geographic, Paris-Match, Stern. He twice won the Overseas Press Club Award, and has had major retrospective exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the International Center of Photography, New York.

 

One of Riboud’s best known images is Eiffel Tower Painter, taken in Paris in 1953. It depicts a man painting the famous structure. He is posed as if a dancer, perched between the metal armature of the tower, below which the city of Paris emerges out of the photographic haze. Lone figures appear frequently in Riboud’s images. In Ankara, a central figure is silhouetted against an industrial background, whereas in France, a man lies in a field. The vertical composition emphasizes the landscape, the trees, sky, water and blowing grass, all of which surround but do not overpower the human element.

Riboud has been witness to the atrocities of war (photographing from both the Vietnam and the American sides of the Vietnam War), and the apparent degradation of a culture repressed from within (China during the years of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution). In contrast, he has captured the graces of daily life, set in sun-drenched facets of the globe (Fès, Angkor, Acapulco, Niger, Bénarès, Shaanxi), and the lyricism of child’s play in everyday Paris.

Taking pictures is savouring life intensely, every hundredth of a second. Marc Riboud.