The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cult. Bertrand Mary. “The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cooked “, Paris, éd. Métailié, 1993 – Persée, photo on the fireplace – Editions Métailié

The photo on the chimney

“The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cooked “, Paris, éd. Métailié, 1993, 280 p.

Chimney photo

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The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cult. Bertrand Mary. “The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cooked “, Paris, éd. Métailié, 1993


Is part of a thematic issue: Europe of laughter and blasphemy

Ercker Alain. The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cult. Bertrand Mary. “The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cooked “, Paris, éd. Métailié, 1993. In: Revue des Sciences Socials de la France de l’Est, N ° 21, 1994. Europe of laughter and blasphemy. pp. 174-175.

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Page 174

The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cult

“The photo on the chimney. Birth of a modern cooked “, Paris, éd. Métailié, 1993, 280 p.

Nothing could be more banal than taking a photo, a mechanical gesture ignoring the weight of the story that implies it. Instead of the traditional and sometimes tedious historical lesson, Bertrand Mary prefers to take the “schooling path” of narration, of writing, to tell the history of photographic art from origins to the present day; at the risk of sometimes falling into the cliché trap. Parado- xally short chronology for an art supposed to stop time. “The art of portrait began to have a mass destiny a hundred and barely fifty years ago”. From the outset photography seems to be the fruit of a misunderstanding which diverts the object from its initial scientific use towards daily life.

To retrace a history of photography is to find the history of an entire era in its social, political, cultural dimension, to that of contemporary architecture. The adventures and jolts of the time permeates its image as much as it is printed on the first metal plates.

Bertrand Mary also recounts the birth of a modern cult; modern in the sense that it is a mechanical object, cult by its characteristics close to a religious act. The author, by his vocabulary, reports on the veneration, from the sacred relationship to the image as lived at the time: “the temples” of photography for the workshops, the “rite officers” for The photos graphs. He speaks of the “photographer priesthood”, the “zealous ministers of worship”, uses the term “heresy” to evoke opponents of photography. Among them-

Ci, Baudelaire or Barbey d’Aurevilly, join the most fervent supporters of this cult by spiritual discourse. However, even the declared opponents of photography are not the last to indulge in the art of pose. The relation to the photo is double, troubled. The attention paid to the reproduction of the self -image and its exhibition are so many significant testimonies of the Nuisance. As there was traditionally a “corner of the good god”, so we see a “corner of the image”. But it is also a highlighting, a way of showing, getting to everyone’s sight. The chimney stands out as the privileged place “of this visible and familiar cult”. We will thus gradually see the photo following the reference points of the family, from the radio station to television, reproducing the social transformations which have repercussions in the family space. The photo, like all art, is also a passive and active reflection of its time. It shows as much as it translates contemporary behaviors and beliefs. The photo thus fulfills a social and political role often without its knowledge, which has the primary aspirations of the Indivius. There is a permanent interaction between photography and society, between what it shows and what it wants to show. Thus the photo reproduces and determines the social hierarchy by the quality of its reproductions, the cost of the photos. Across the Atlantic, the vogue of photo-portraits testifies to their role in the process of integration and identification of newcomers. The author himself evokes “the democracy of the portrait”. Photography, by accompanying, see preceding the colonists on the roads of America, participating in the process of colonization and integration in emerging American society. At the same time as it connects the most isolated colonist to the civilized world, it relates to union, poses the milestones of colonization in America, diffuses the feeling of national belonging, of a national identity Beyond the cultural clinies and differences of emigrants.

The author thus makes us share the idea that retracing the history of photography amounts to drawing a social history. The speech of photography is as much in the visible as in the underlying. The photo lends itself to the artifice game. It gives the illusion of the erasure of social differences and the brings closer to the leaders with the directed. Illusion that the latter maintain for the sake of seduction of the masses by an official hagiography. Today we would speak of “treating” its image. With the development of techniques, the use of new materials which reduces both the exposure time, the cost of photographs and allows photographs to escape climatic hazards and confinement in their workshops, the mechanical representation is democratized and becomes accessible even to the most disadvantaged, even more more the impression of social equality. This is all the more obvious than the photo, by staging in the workshops immerses us even more in the world of illusion and “trompe-l’oeil”. But if photography seems to ignore the usual social distinctions, it cannot however evacuate them from the representations. Social differences are displayed elsewhere, take refuge in details, such as the image support. At the same time appears a standardization of the reproduction by “the trivialization of portraits” to “standardized formats”. “The bodies were presented with the sliced ​​slicing”. This standard, this conformism, corollary and setbacks of social standardization, goes beyond the very framework of photography and goes so far as to ignore, by bichromy, a more colorful reality than rendered, which levels the peculiarities by default ¬ larisms, both religious and cultural, regional and economic and social. In this the images of the time are also testifies to the researcher in what they ignore, mask, cover. They thus testify to the strategy of cultural standardization of the time. The photo is both reflection and mirror. On the other hand, by what it shows, the photo indeed reports-

Revue des Sciences Socials de la France de l’Est, 1,994

The photo on the chimney


Sociologist and writer, Bertrand Mary was born in London in 1946. He is married and father of two children.


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