Marc Riboud’s 100 Years

In the heart of History

Born in Lyon on June, 24, 1923, Marc Riboud would be 100 years old today.

The photographs shown at the gallery to honor his legacy exemplify Marc Riboud’s journey and his style, ranging from gravity to mischievousness – a conspicuous talent

made of a mix of elegance and strength. Whether randomly or deliberately, Marc Riboud went through the XXth century as a privileged witness of his time: the Resistance in Vercors in 1944, Afghanistan and India in the 1950s, China at the time of the Great Leap Forward, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge or Vietnam during the war… So it can be said that he has been in the heart of History.

Riboud very quickly dropped an engineering career that did not captivate him to take another road and dedicate his life to photography. From then on, everything went very quickly as the glamorous picture that he took by chance in 1953 – The painter of the Eiffel Tower – decided of his fate: Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, his two illustrious godfathers, admitted him at first sight in the Magnum agency, the most prestigious photography agency of its time, after seeing this image. A new life started from then on… As of 1955, he was on the road, embarking upon his legendary initiatory journey in Asia: the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran, India and in the end China, Vietnam and Japan. Later, in the 1960s, Marc Riboud focused on national independences: Algeria, Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea), Bangladesh, Vietnam… Not to mention his legendary meeting in November 1963 with Fidel Castro in a Havana Hotel in the middle of the night, the day of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy or his journey in Moscow in the middle of the Cold War in the 1960s.

Some permanent features can be set up: Riboud has relentlessly returned to the Middle East (Iran in the 1970s) and above all to the Far East, mainly in Angkor, a place for which he established an impassioned link and above all in China, a country he relentlessly visited for the next thirty years. But History caught him up in Europe: Poland in the 1980s with the solidarity trade union Solidarnosc or the Klaus Barbie trial in France in 1987. Marc Riboud set out on his last journey in China, following the advice of his long-time friend the Franco-chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki, who persistently sang him Huang Shan – the “Yellow Mountain”– praises, the mountain highly prized by generations of Chinese painters. His last expedition took place in South Africa, at the end of the 1990s, after the fall of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela, where he took poignant pictures of the Soweto townships. Ironically enough, it is in New Yok in 2001, in his hotel room, where he was passing through to receive the Leica Lifetime Achievement award, that he photographed the September 11 terrorist attack on television… Quite a tremendous career for a man who prided himself that “he was not made for travels”…

Eventually, Marc Riboud always returned to Paris, close to the delightful Luxembourg gardens that he loved to pace in company of his faithful Leica. Two of his iconic photographs unveil his taste for the City of Light: taken in 1953, at the start of his career, The Painter of the Eiffel Tower and The nun in front of Notre-Dame both display, in a ludic and poetic manner, all the range of his talent. As his great friend the photographer Eliot Erwitt once said, Marc is serious about not being serious. A touch of charm and of frivolity is by no means insignificant !

Exhibition from 27 June 2023 to 25 November 2023