Georgina Rodriguez leaves Riyadh to attend the red carpet in Venice

Georgina Rodriguez leaves Riyadh to attend the red carpet in Venice

Arles: A wrought-iron gate, a bouquet of artificial flowers, the gaze fixed on the target: for 40 years the photographic studio Rex, in Marseille, has witnessed immigrant men and women walking in search of a better life, of a better life. exposure Coming out of oblivion in Arles (southern France).

“Ne m’oublie pas”, submitted until September 24 by Rencontres de la Photography, brings together more than 2,000 anonymous snapshots taken in this family studio founded in 1933 by Asadur Keosayan, of Armenian origin, in the heart of the region. Pilsons folk. .

Jean-Marie Donat, curator of the exhibition, explains that “the characteristic of Studio Rex is that it has documented for forty years all the migrations from sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Comoros” that pass through the largest French port in the Mediterranean. Photographs taken between 1966 and 1985 are from the Private Collection.

Benefiting from its strategic location between the railway and sea stations of Marseille, and then, in the 1950s, from its proximity to a branch of the Ministry of Labour, Studio Rex documents “a key moment in the history of France that witnessed the migration of workers”. “The colonial origin intensified during the post-war boom (period of strong growth after the war, editor’s note) and the Algerian War,” notes on its website the Museum of the History of Migration, in Paris, which also partly owns the studio The Rex Fund.

If most of this archive has been lost – Assadour Kissayan and his son Grégoire, who have come to join him in the studio since 1966, destroy their stock about every ten years, saved some boxes of film negatives.

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In Arles, on nine backlit boxes, about 80 such identity photo negatives are displayed for administrative purposes, for work or residence permits, among more than 14,000 photographs collected by Jean-Marie Donat.

It is also “the history of the surveillance and regulation of foreigners in France that these photographs implicitly reveal” for Émilie Gandon, curator of heritage at the National Museum of the History of Immigration.

“Of the 80 portraits, there must be about 77 men, 70 of them with moustaches. They are all dressed in roughly the same clothes, in the style of the seventies: a jacket with a big collar, checks, a big tie, really nicely dressed and well-groomed,” Jean notes. Mary Donut.

Pictures of crossing the Mediterranean

Costumes or traditional clothes from the country of origin, and ceremonial wear are also found on studio photo prints where men and women also pose, sometimes with their children.

However, if these images are shown with the intention of being sent to the country of origin to give news and testify to its new prosperous situation, it is above all on the initiative of the people themselves, like Gregoire Keosayan, who says he died in April 2023, in a catalogexposure: “Recommendations, they are the ones who gave them!”

“People who come to work in France take pictures with the material elements of their success, either a fur coat or banknotes sticking out of their suit pockets”, but also a radio or a briefcase, to signify the next return, explains Martine Derain. Artist and editor who contributed to the Marseille Municipal Archive’s acquisition of part of the negatives.

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Like Samia Chabani, of the Resource Center on the History and Memories of Migrations in Marseille, Ancragues, who would like to display these photographs in the Marseille area of ​​Belsons where they were taken, Ms. Deren insists that it is important that this fund be accessible to all.

She believes that these images have a “social” dimension. “Grégoire had no artistic intent, no projection on his part. It was people who brought in the things they wanted to display and put on their beautiful costumes.”

For Jean-Marie Donat, “The most interesting thing in this archive is paradoxically the photographs that were not taken in the studio, the ones called +portfolio+”. Either these pictures of their loved ones which the men had on their arrival which they brought to Studio Rex to reproduce or enlarge or make light installations because they had been damaged during their travels.

“All these images are in fact” associated with travel and waiting,” he adds, adding that “the portfolio image crosses the Mediterranean from Algeria to Marseille, and the studio image crosses the Mediterranean.”

In the other direction from the Mediterranean, the administrative image remains in France, just like the composite image “that the man keeps in his room in memory of his family.”

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About the Author: Aldina Antunes

"Praticante de tv incurável. Estudioso da cultura pop. Pioneiro de viagens dedicado. Viciado em álcool. Jogador."

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