Today I met Marianne Caron, the widow of famous French photographer Gilles Caron.
Gilles was not a professionally trained photographer when he started, but he learned with a professional and by taking pictures of people. Soon after starting, he signed on to work for APIS – Agence Parisienne d’Informations Sociales – an important information agency in Paris. Soon after leaving them he worked started with Depardon, another important agency, which allowed him to travel and photograph the Vietnam War, student demonstrations gone awry in Mexico City before the Olympic opening, the 6 Day War and student riots in France, and much more. On a trip to Cambodia in 1970 Gilles went missing and has not been seen since. His widow Marianne has made it her life’s work to catalog, archive and expose the photographs of her husband.
During our visit with Marianne, we were able to look at the black and white contact sheets of hundreds of Gille’s photographs from Vietnam. It was unbelievable. As Janice Levy said, seeing someone’s contact sheets is about as close as you can get to getting into their mind. When looking at contact sheets, one can see the photographic choices the creator made, such as framing and exposure, as well as a sequence of events. It really is fascinating and the images were quite arresting.
The conversation with Marianne was interesting since she does not speak much English and Janice had to translate for the majority of students. I understood both sides of the conversation, so it was a unique experience to hear both original and interpreted.
I, myself, spoke with Marianne and she is such an adorable old French woman. She showed us her studio where she works on archiving and such things. A wall of shelves, floor to ceiling, contained documents, boxes of negatives and contact sheets, binders of prints, and much more. Her computer on a table on the other side of the room, near a bed.
Her apartment was very spacious and the shelves in her living room were crammed neatly full of books. The group of us took up the whole space.
Overall, the experience was quite lovely and Marianne and I exchanged e-mail addresses, to keep in touch for when I return to France in the fall. I’m looking forward to it.