Jean-Philippe Charbonnier
Mineurs dans leurs vestiaires
Jean-Philippe Carbonnier
La petite fille à la moto, Nord de la France, 1954

Jean-Philippe Charbonnier

About the artist

1921 — 2004

The Parisian photojournalist Jean-Philippe Charbonnier was born into a family of artists and intellectuals. His grandfather had founded La revue blanche, the art and literary magazine, while his father was a painter. Although he studied philosophy at the Lycée Condorcet, Charbonnier discovered photography, abandoned his studies and took a position in a portrait studio. 

After a period of exile in Switzerland during WWII, Charbonnier returned to France in 1944. In a village near Grenoble, he captured the execution of a local Nazi traitor from beginning to end in just thirty frames. Efficiency and technique would go on to define Charbonnier's humanistic approach to photography as he became a reporter for the magazine Réalités. Throughout the fifties, he travelled as widely as Brazil, North Africa, Russia and Kuwait; it was in the latter that he took a memorable photograph of a woman walking with a sewing machine balanced on her head.

Within France, his journalistic work shone a light on sensitive subjects ranging from working class poverty and drug addiction to the conditions in mental health institutions. Like humanist contemporaries such as Janine Niépce and Sabine Weiss, Charbonnier's work has been extensively celebrated and exhibited, helping to form a picture of postwar identity in France at a time of rapid social change. He embraced commercial photography, shooting for clients like Carrefour and Renault, and working with the Italian-French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, and taught his art at Ecole Supérieure des Arts Graphiques in Paris.

Charbonnier was three times married, and awarded the Vermeil Medal for Photography by the city of Paris. He died in 2004, at the age of eighty-two.

Technical information

Image 1: Mineurs dans leurs vestiaires, 1954
Size: 25,3 x 17,2 cm 
Extra: stamped

Image 2: La petite fille à la moto, Nord de la France, 1954
Size: 22 x 13,8 en 24 x 18 cm 
Print techique: silver print
Extra: stamped