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August 25, 2021

30 Stunning Color Photographs of Paris in 1923

Jules Gervais-Courtellemont (1863–1931) was a French photographer who was famous for taking color autochromes during World War I. He was born near Fontainebleau in Avon, Seine-et-Marne, south of Paris. Courtellemont emigrated with his parents in 1874 to Algeria, and remained there for 20 years.

Paris in 1923, taken by Jules Gervais-Courtellemont.

He became a globetrotter, always in search of something special and exotic. His photography drew him as far as the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and on to Asia. He collected his works, the moment he had captured with his camera. A head full of dreams and two feet on the ground, is how a contemporary described the artist of light painting.

Courtellemont returned to his home province to record the war. His work reflects the photographic traditions of the autochrome. Landscapes are carefully composed, with due attention to lighting and placement within the picture frame. He used symbols such as the lonely cross and the charred tree for dramatic effect. Judging from the popularity of his lectures in Paris during the war, and the series of publications featuring the battles of Marne and Verdun, his autochromes had the ability to attract a great deal of public interest.

After the war, Courtellemont worked for an American publication. He eventually became a photographer for National Geographic. He was a lifelong friend of the novelist, Orientalist and photographer Pierre Loti. While over 5,500 Gervais-Courtellemont autochromes survive in various institutional collections, including the Musée Albert-Kahn in Boulogne-Billancourt and the Cinémathèque Robert-Lynen in central Paris, his work in private hands is quite rare and sought after.


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