Claude Dityvon's icons from May 1968 are recognized by a very wide public. Expert Christophe Goeury and the Millon Auction House have put together a monographic auction of this unclassifiable photographer-artist with a selection of 320 photographs that covers his 40-year production from 1967 to 2007, all printed by the artist and from his personal collection.
This visual poet invites us to revisit the world around us through his images. Claude Dityvon does not remain focused on the topics and subjects he photographs: from student uprisings of May '68 to views of slums or cityscapes, from enigmatic nighttime scenes or portraits of blue collar workers. These only serve to establish a visual language defined by the following elements: man--sometimes almost invisible--in a patiently composed image that seizes the impalpable, the silences, the unreal, the dream world and especially the secret harmonies that can connect us.
Claude Dityvon's visual language is built with a precise composition that opposes and confronts light and dark, that emphasizes movements, that dynamically uses blurs and shifts to tell stories, that seizes the unexpected and the mysterious. His discovery of Giacometti's famous sculpture "The Walking Man" inspired him to this aspiration. He decided from that moment on that his photography would be like "The Walking Man": that of a man that carries on his shoulders the mystery, fragility and the unpredictability of life, while continuing to walk upright.
This photographer is an artist that is one of the most important French photographers of the second half of the 20th century. His intellectual and poetic work is a discovery and may be highly valued in the future.
Claude Dityvon's photographs are part of several permanent collections: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Musée de la photographie, Charleroi, Belgium; Musée Nicéphore-Niépce, Chalon-sur-Saône, to list only the most important institutions.
General De Gaulle's France was at a turning point, with cultural tensions rising and social strikes filling newspaper pages. May '68 had arrived. Claude Dityvon, an amateur photographer, wandered the Parisian streets, his camera at hand, following the events. Together with Gilles Caron (1939-1970) and Bruno Barbey (born in 1941), they became the three photographers that immortalized May 1968's events.
Unlike Gilles Caron and Bruno Barbey, who were under hire by different photojournalistic agencies, Claude Dityvon remained independent and chose not to sell his photographs to the press. While Caron's and Barbey's photojournalistic style focused on reporting on the intensity of the rebellions and the violence of the protests through snapshots of the events, Claude Dityvon chose to move away from the journalistic narrative. Instead, Dityvon focused on creating a personal visual style.
Each of the photos from this series expresses his personal visual language. These stylistic techniques helped Dityvon capture an atmosphere and a feeling. The story he chose to tell went above the simplicity of the subject (the event). The images are timeless and an invitation to enter the moment of life they illustrate.
An excellent example of this stylistic language is represented in the photograph of a young man seated on a chair looking into the fumes of tear gas. Far in front of him, the shadows of policeman can be perceived. This photograph, taken in the midst of a violent protest on the boulevard Saint-Michel at 2 am, precisely reflects a subtle and cinematographic composition. A timeless atmosphere of chaos and at the same time a sense of serenity prevail in this balanced image. The emotion and the personal poetic universe of the photographer are, in this picture, perfectly transcribed.
The 68 photographs offered for this section of the sale are those used to illustrate the edition of the May '68 book by Carrere/Kian (1988), and most of them bear the handwritten titles by the singer Renaud on the backs of each of the works.
One of the most important current exhibits in Paris is at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and is titled "Icônes de Mai '68: Les images ont une histoire…". This exhibit brings together the most iconic images of this revolutionary time for the 50th anniversary of May '68, and Claude Dityvon's work is at the center of this exhibit.
Claude Dityvon was born in 1937 in La Rochelle. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood and spent most of his time observing people and absorbing the life around him. This period of his life influenced the way he would look at life, society and the world. This is where he was inspired to capture his favorite themes, such as life in the countryside, the working class, urban environments, but always with Man as the main subject.
In one photograph, Dityvon recounts stumbling upon children playing near an abandoned factory. With the moon rising, it seemed as if they were playing catch with the moon. He waited a few moments, took his photograph, and quietly walked away, so as not to disturb the kids playing. This image while set in the 13th arrondissement of Paris could have been taken in any city around the world. With the balance of light and dark, and playing with the framing, Dityvon again created a timeless and poetic image.
From 1962 to 1967, he lived in the outskirts of Paris with his wife Christiane, who bought him his very first camera. With Paris as a playground, he captured the atmospheres of neighborhoods like Belleville or the Courneuve, turning these disparaged worlds into the set of wonderful human adventures. With kindness and sensitivity, he transformed these people, who are often forgotten, and brought a gentle harmony into these tough districts. His powerful photographs express a quest: to seize the fragile balance of Man and to uncover the poetry of each moment, in everyone.
In 1972, he created the agency VIVA with Martine Franck, Guy Le Querrec, Hervé Gloaguen, François Hers, Richard Kalvar, Jean Lattès and Alain Dagbert. This group of photographers stood out from existing press agencies such as Magnum, Gamma or Sipa by adding another dimension to photojournalism. VIVA's photographers wanted to represent events in society with personal artistic touches and visual styles. The agency focused expressly on French events and environments.
From the 1980s, he worked with Les Cahiers du Cinéma on a project titled "Album de tournages" which presented how 10 film directors worked on 10 different French film sets: Claude Chabrol, Maurice Pialat, André Téchiné, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Raoul Ruiz, Manuel de Oliveira, Jacques Demy…
In 2004, he followed in the steps of Arthur Rimbaud and his 1886 journey aboard a caravan in the current Republic of Djibouti. Dityvon produced a book and an exhibition "Rimbaud's Caravan" from this journey to Zanzibar and Djibouti.
Tuesday May 15th, 2018 at 2 pm, CET
Hôtel Drouot–Room 9
9 rue Drouot, 75009 Paris
Millon Riviera - 2 rue du Congrès–0600
Thursday May 3 and Friday May 4, 2018
10 am to 1 pm, 2 pm to 7 pm, CET
Hôtel Drouot – Room 9
Monday May 14, 11 am to 6 pm, CET
Tuesday May 15, 11 am to noon, CET
Expert en photographies de collection
Tél : + 33 (0)6 16 02 64 91
The catalog is available upon request from the Photography Department at the Millon Auction House (see contacts below).
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