The process of preparing material for this website has been a real education for me. In picking apart and studying the components making up the two latest French portfolios added: L’Épreuve Photographique (The Photographic Print) for 1904 and 1905, knowledge has come in both large waves and tiny revelations. One of these waves has been some of the poetic, profound, and often humorous writing of French art historian and critic Émile Dacier.
This stunning woodcut initial, designed by the French artist and type designer George Auriol , (1863-1938) begins the preface to the 1904 First Series portfolio of L’Épreuve Photographique, written by Émile Dacier, 1876-1952.Photographer J. Petitot found a high vantage point to photograph Paris, The City of Light, for the Second Series, 1905 portfolio of L’Épreuve Photographique. Petitot was a member of Société D’Excursions des Amateurs de Photographie in this magnificent city.
Here is an example of him speaking of his perceptions on the artistic photographic plates-included in his preface to the 1904 portfolio:
“These are the memories of distant lands, these are the tragedies and comedies of the street where chance is the great director, and here the pressure of crowds, the galloping squadrons, the shock waves on the breakers…”
And earlier, his delightful account of Photography and photographers in the dark ages-before their creative impulse was set free:
“Photographers! These terrifying figures to children that their souls have kept long stubborn grudges! …To visit these murderers as children we had to dress up-like the condemned. After the mandatory cutting of the hair, torture ensued by the shaking of the neck yoke…”
The First Series (1904) cover to L’Épreuve Photographique. Type designer George Auriol designed the floral vignettes and other typographic elements that were integrated into the cover as well as for the half-title, title, preface pages (1904 only), plate tissue-guards, and separate “Table” index page (listing titles of photographs to corresponding photographer) found in the collected yearly portfolios for 1904 and 1905.Photographic plates, like this detail by Belgian photographer Léonard Misonne, are reproduced for the portfolios from original source prints as hand-pulled, Taille-Douce (copper plate) screen photogravures. They are often double mounted, as shown, to a larger colored support measuring 44 x 32 cm and covered with a tissue-guard.
Tiny revelations: the editor of L’Épreuve Photographique, Roger Aubry, was not only a photographer and inventor, but a passionate balloonist who survived a crash into the Grand Palais in 1905 while taking photographs above Paris. And another: the very typeface that survives in some of the signage used in the Paris Métro train stations- Auriol, was designed by namesake George Auriol, a French artist, type and graphic designer who used his new typeface as well as other Art Nouveau elements in his commission of L’Épreuve Photographique by the Paris publisher Librairie Plon.
The Annuaire Général et International de la Photographie. (General and International Directory of Photography) published this advertisement for the Second Series, 1905 portfolio of L’Épreuve Photographique .This burin-enhanced portrait, "Etude", by French photographer Robert Demachy, was used as the frontis plate to the 1905 Annuaire Général-reproduced as a hand-pulled photogravure by the Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Company of London. Dimensions to work: 13.8 x 12.0 cm.The humorous and sly observations of French writer and critic Émile Dacier, who wrote the preface to L’Épreuve Photographique in 1904, also extended to a much larger, illustrated history of perceived photographic mishaps, included in the 1905 edition of the Annuaire Général and titled "La Photographie à Travers L’Image". (Photography Through the Image) This drawing titled "Partie de Tennis: Étrange résultat d’une photographie instantanée" (Game of Tennis: Strange result of a snapshot) by the artist Meunier was included. (this example from source-Le Rire: June 22, 1901)Auriol’s relationship with the Annuaire Général is subtle, considering he was largely responsible for the design of L’Épreuve Photographique. The annual uses the Auriol typeface for the working titles of select plates, including this example: "Fleurs Lumineuses", taken by French woman photographer Mlle. Céline Laguarde and published as a collotype plate by Ch. Collas & Cie of Cognac (Charente). (dimensions: 10.8 x 14.7 cm)I’m not here to check in, I just want to use your Chambres Noires……and for the traveling photographer roaming France in 1905, a subscription to the Annuaire Général would even include this list (detail shown) of available darkrooms at the disposal of amateurs compiled by the Société des amateurs photographes du Touring-Club.George Auriol- designed floral vignettes like this one grace several of the letterpress pages of L’Épreuve Photographique, adding elegance to this sumptious portfolio work.
In 1903, Aubry had taken over the editorship of the Librairie Plon’s Annuaire Général et International de la Photographie. (General and International Directory of Photography) Published in Paris, this was an annual encompassing a little bit of everything photographic, but with a more scientific focus in keeping with the tradition of the publication. I was fortunate to have bought a copy of the 1905 edition many years ago, and used it as a reference work when preparing these galleries. “Directeur”, another way of saying “Editor”, is the title assigned Aubry for this publication as well as for L’Épreuve Photographique. My respect for his work in compiling these portfolios keeps in step with the tradition of the enlightened city of Paris, their place of publication. We have additionally prepared a PhotoSeed Highlight for this work here, with a further link to all 96 plates making up the portfolios.