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Emile Zola, the photographer

Zola’s name is commonly associated with that of novels like L’Assommoir, Germinal, two works from the Rougon-Macquart series or the famous article J’accuse, but Émile Zola was also keen on photography.

Zola was really fond of photography, he owned 10 cameras, three different laboratories and took photos very regularly.

Mathilde Falguière, conservatrice du patrimoine, responsable du département de la photographie de la Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine
Photo of the 1900 Universal Exhibition taken by Zola, from the top of the Eiffel Tower © DR

In an interview dated October 21, 2019, on the site of the Ministry of Culture, the heritage curator presents an unknown aspect of Emile Zola. It was in 2017 that the french State bought at auction a photographic background of 2,000 glass plate negatives.

Zola’s photographic practice started late, it was over 50 years old that he discovered this art.

Zola was really fond of photography, he owned 10 cameras, three different laboratories and took photos very regularly. We know that he paid attention to the framing and that he could make up to six different prints for the same negative, changing each time so as to vary the final result. Technical studies will be carried out soon to find out whether the writer was a typical or atypical photography lover with regard to his time and his environment. The potential link between his literary work and his photographic work will also be explored in depth, in order to uncover possible hidden links.

Mathilde Falguière

The full interview can be read here (in french): https://www.culture.gouv.fr/Actualites/Emile-Zola-restauration-d-un-fonds-photographique-exceptionnel

Zola, the photographer

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Nicolas Beaumont is a photojournalist, director and writer specializing in social and humanitarian photography. Among our clients are the French Red Cross, Emmaüs, Handicap International, Secours Mag, Dimatex, Actusoins. We make films, photographs and articles around the world on current topics: migration, war, displaced, natural disaster, flood etc...

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