Look! 150 years of photography books for children

Until May 31, the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau presents an exhibition entitled Greeting! 150 years of photography for children. Laurence LeGuenthe curator, wrote this text.

Born in the 19th century, photography entered the books very early in order to be effectively distributed to as many people as possible. Rather than reserving this distribution channel for adults, photographers saw it as an opportunity to conquer a new audience: children. Collaborating with writers, they enthusiastically tried to create works for young people and showed great inventiveness in creating fiction, textbooks or innovative albums based on their images.

These so-called photoliterary creations reflect their time, testifying to the variety of educational, aesthetic and political trends, but also to the technical progress associated with the development of photography.

For a long time, photography was the unloved part of children’s books. Even today, photography remains marginal in children’s literature and the photo-illustrated book still suffers from a lack of recognition. However, in recent years we have rediscovered the importance and diversity of this abundant production. We realize that many great photographers have actively contributed to its history: Ansel Adams, Laure Albin-Guillot, Claude Cahun, Edward Curtis, Dominique Darbois, Robert Doisneau, Hannah Höch, Frank Horvat, André Kertész, François Kollar, Ergy Landau, Jacques – Henri Lartigue, Thérèse Le Prat, Duane Michals, Annette Messager, Sarah Moon, Marc Riboud, Alexander Rodtchenko, Cindy Sherman, Emmanuel Sougez, Edward Steichen, William Wegman, for whom these books are fully part of their work.

In addition, titles signed by the masters of photography are being reissued and now appear on the shelves of children’s libraries. In this way, the assemblages of heterogeneous objects by the surrealist photographer Claude Cahun (1894-1954) are once again accessible for the Cœur de Pic. The fur of the cubs of animal photographer Ylla (1911-1955) is silkier than ever. And young readers can now admire the depth of black-and-white images by Japanese photographer Eiköh Hosoe (born 1933) in Taka-Chan and Me.

The Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau invites the public today to rediscover the history of this production rarely presented to the public by institutions.

Greeting! 150 years of photography for children offers visitors the opportunity to discover approximately one hundred works published from the mid-19th century to the present. Designed for both children and adults, the scenography offers a chronological journey, ranging from 1866 to 2023, and allows you to discover the first works of the genre and then the evolution of the children’s photography book in Europe and the United States. The tour also highlights in the form of a focus some structuring categories of photo literature for children: the picture book, the cinema book, the story book or even the travel book.

Yesterday or today, these books marked several generations and shaped many perspectives. As such, they are an integral part of collective history and deserve to be discovered or rediscovered.

Laurence LeGuen
Exhibition curator

Greeting! 150 years of photography for children
From March 1 to May 31, 2024
Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau
1 rue de la div. General Leclerc
94250 Gentilly

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