Marcel Bovis | 6×6
A recent exhibition at La Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau showed the work of one of the forgotten masters of the “humanist” photography, Marcel Bovis. This tribute focused predominately on a format that Bovis used almost as a signature, the famous 6×6.
This exhibition shows photographs realised from Marcel Bovis’ original negatives which are conserved by the French Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. The artist donated his archive to the French State on the 31st of January 1991.
The predominance of the square format is obvious in Bovis’ work and counts for half of his black-and-white negatives; more than 10,000 pictures shot in the last thirty years of his career. Bovis described his work inside a square geometry as a search of the “correct and final composition” at the moment of the shutter release.
Showing his images in their original framing enables to understand Bovis’ relation to the subject, to discover his affiliation to the camera. Attempting to grasp both Bovis’ intentions and emotions — the photographer, the man, the walker — tracing him back to the second he is taking the photograph.
Bovis acquired his first Rolleiflex 6×6 in August 1933, and it became quickly his ideal camera. “Armed with the Rolleiflex, I took a lot of pictures. I was free and could go where I pleased.” The Rolleiflex revolutionised photography by relying not on glass plates but 6×6 celluloid film. The film helped reduce the equipment to the bare necessities; the camera and a few rolls of film. The preparation time was reduced allowing the photographer to move and shoot more freely.
Bovis designed multiple exhibition and publication projects himself. Some photographs have never been published before and others are reproduced for the first time in this integrity. The latter are displayed in the same spirit in which Bovis organised them in his carefully prepared collections leading to the donation and the posterity of his work.
Marcel Bovis Trained at the National School of Decorative Arts in his hometown Nice, Marcel Bovis (1904-1997) moves to Paris in 1922 where he becomes a decorator in the art galleries of the Galeries Lafayette.
However, as a passionate autodidact, thirsty for knowledge, Bovis does not restrict himself to one single art.Being a talented designer, accordion player, painter and engraver, he also becomes a photographer at the end of the 1920s. Bovis publishes his first images in Scandale in 1933 and illustrates a year later Les Suicidés, a serialised novel by Georges Simenon. Meeting in August 1936 André Lejard, editor of Arts et Métiers Graphiques marks the beginning of a long collaboration with this magazine. After the war, he finally benefits from important photographic missions by the Commissariat Général au Tourisme or the Administration des Monuments Historiques. Bovis further founds the Groupe des XV together with Daniel Masclet, René-Jacques, Willy Ronis and others. The association defends the rights and values as well as the statute of photographers and strives to have photography recognised as an art. He organised for instance the first retrospective of the American photographer Berenice Abbott in 1947 and writes La Photographie de paysage et d’architecture the same year.
Marcel Bovis published numerous articles in magazines like Photographie nouvelle or Photo-Revue. As historian, he writes the technical chapters of publications like 150 ans de photographie française in 1979, Histoire de la photographie in 1986 or Les appareils photographiques français in 1993.