Fnac :
A collection that sets an example 2 /
A window on the world
10 14 2017 ... 01 2018

The Fnac, France’s leading retailer of cultural products, lends great importance to photography. It sells cameras, organises photography competitions, opens and runs galleries and has had its own photograph collection since 1978... This collection includes up to 1800 prints and covers the major trends in photographic history. This exhibition will cover three areas, the thirties avant-garde movement, the humanists and the representatives of the photo agency Magnum.

When Max Théret founded the Fnac in 1954, he readily admitted that he deliberately chose a name that “snaps like Kodak” for the brand. This explicit reference to photography can be seen as the starting point of the brand’s involvement that is still going strong over half a century later. Under Théret’s direction, and that of André Essel, photography took centre stage at the Fnac: in 1956, it began selling cameras and equipment, followed by photography competitions for clients and the photo galleries were inaugurated in 1969. Thanks to touring exhibitions, meet and greets with photographers, publishing, sponsorship of institutional initiatives, the Fnac soon became a major player in photographic circles in France and Europe. These initiatives had a number of aims: to sell photographic equipment of course, to support creativity and artists, to bring a different perspective to the other cultural products on sale at the Fnac, to make the stores into true living spaces where cultural debate flourished and to encourage the public to reflect on current affairs through photography. From 1978, the Fnac started a collection that has been continuously enriched ever since, curated first by Gil Mijangos, then by Laura Serani. The approach is wide-ranging and the collection has always been a great showcase for diversity in photography. All of the major trends are covered: humanism, war photography, thirties avant-garde, fashion photography etc. The collection bears witness to the activities of the photographic galleries and represents the effort made by the Fnac to educate and satisfy the taste of all of its potential clients. The Fnac’s photographic collection reflects photography in all its diversity, providing a timeline to a certain idea of its history. Above all, it provides a certain view of the world.

The 1930s
The main figures of photography in the thirties provide the lynchpin of the Fnac collection. It was a time when photography became a noble art form, the notion of auteur was recognised, photos were widely published in the press or in monographic books. The brand thus includes a real part of photographic history in its collection. The artist who features the most is the experimental surrealist Man Ray (superimposition, solarisation) with over 100 prints in a collection that numbers 1800. Other major players complete this body of work: Brassaï with “Paris de nuit”, André Kertész, Maurice Tabard, some early work by Erwin Blumenfeld and the first photograph by Martin Munkácsi to be published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1934.

The Humanists
In the eighties, the general public developed a love for humanist photography that became “fashionable”. The Fnac followed the trend and encouraged the renewed interest in the work of Édouard Boubat, Willy Ronis and Robert Doisneau, three French photographers whose work depicted a certain idea of working-class, post-War Paris in a poetic, tender manner.

Photographing fashion
Since the thirties, the most forward-thinking of photographers have always regularly collaborated with women’s fashion magazines, a genre that always knows how to attract the most creative of artists to boost its pages visually. Man Ray alternated working with Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar , Erwin Blumenfeld’s Vogue covers, shot between 1941 and 1955 are well known. A number of photo-reporters also tackled the subject, Pierre Boulat did a piece on the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house that was shown in the Fnac galleries in 1994. William Klein came back to his fashion beginnings in the eighties with large format, painted contact sheets. Other artists work only in this field like Frank Horvat or Henry Clark. The Fnac organised a number of shows on the theme, taking advantage of the industry’s glamour and allure to attract the general public into the galleries and stores.

Photographing the stars
The Fnac is above all a commercial entity, the objective of which is to sell cultural products: films, books, discs. As such, the photo galleries are the ideal places in which to showcase the people who produce the aforementioned art. Photographs of emblematic artists taken by big name photographers are part of company’s communication strategy. In the world of cinema, portraits of icons are the most common: Marylin Monroe, Ingrid Bergman and Brigitte Bardot, taken by David Seymour, Léo Mirkine – a set photographer who also specialised in film star portraits –, Eve Arnold and Yul Brynner. But the other arts are also covered with portraits of writers like Jacques Prévert, Virginia Wolff, Samuel Beckett and André Gide by Gisèle Freund, of the musician Elvin Jones, or of the artists Diego Rivera and Joseph Beuys, all of whom feature in the collection.

Magnum Photos
The Magnum agency was founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, as a cooperative of photographers who wanted to cut out the middle man between photographers and publishers so that the members of the agency could retain rights to their work. The company defends and supports photographers who have a singular, original take on the world. The Fnac has always supported auteurs and artists by organising events, round-table discussions, meet and greets, exhibitions and enables them to reach a market with their work. The collaboration was a no-brainer and lasted for ten years. It resulted in a number of exhibitions and the acquisition of many pieces for the Fnac’s photography collection.

Support for contemporary artists
The Fnac’s photography galleries are not restricted to showing the work of established artists, they also provide solid support to a number of independent photographers, all of whom show an individual and original approach to photography and a strong visual style. Jean-Christophe Béchet, Denis Dailleux, Bernard Descamps, Isabel Muñoz and Max Pam featured in exhibitions and had their work bought by the galleries. The Fnac is a patron of photography and a trend-setter for new work. It outlines new trends, finds the photographers of tomorrow. It creates expectation and incites curiosity for its exhibitions, forging an image of an innovative, forwardthinking brand in artistic terms in film, music and literature.