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Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson opens new location with a retrospective of Martine Franck
Installation view.

PARIS.- For the opening of its new spaces, the Fondation HCB wanted to pay tribute to Martine Franck by a retrospective dedicated to her. Martine Franck professed a wonder and celebration of life, a profound joy faced with humanity while at the same time fighting against exclusion with all the empathy she was able to show. A socially engaged photographer, Martine Franck became an activist for many of these causes she actively photographed, which required a great deal of courage and daring for the young woman who had been taught not to cross the boundaries. “A photograph isn’t necessarily a lie”, she said. “But nor is it the truth. […] You have to be ready to welcome the unexpected”.

Born in Antwerp in 1938, Martine Franck grew up in the UK and the United States as part of a family of collectors. A polyglot, history of art student and passionate about sculpture, it was during a long trip to the Orient in 1963 that she discovered photography. On her return to Paris, she worked for Time-Life and became the assistant of Gjon Mili and Eliot Elisofon before becoming an independent photographer. Collaborating with the major American magazines, her reportages and portraits of artists and writers have been published in Life, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and Vogue. Quickly giving up fashion photography, she was involved in the adventure of the Théâtre du Soleil troupe from the start, with her friend Ariane Mnouchkine, and helped set up the Vu agency, then Viva. In 1970, she married Henri Cartier-Bresson, an accomplished artist, who encouraged her to follow her own way. She later joined the Magnum cooperative, which still handles her work today.

In addition to her accomplished life as a photographer, the creation of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in 2003 was a high point. Very conscious of the enormous legacy that would be left to the family if nothing was done, Martine Franck enthusiastically embarked on the creation of a public foundation to house and share both her husband’s and her work. She explains that this was the moment she finally felt proud of the means she had been left by her family. For her, this foundation built with Henri Cartier-Bresson and their daughter Mélanie represented a final step towards freedom: freedom to create, preserve and collect. She had finally crossed the line, and gently implemented this transgression which continued the family tradition of sharing art.

The work on the exhibition and accompanying book was begun a long time in advance, in 2011, by Agnès Sire with Martine Franck, when she knew she was ill. The photographer wanted to entrust the creation of the book and the curating of the exhibition to the person with whom she’d been managing this Fondation for many years. The selection of photographs, the more chronological sequence, punctuated with texts, and the interview with her friend, the writer Dominique Eddé, were the main features of this vast project. In it, you can follow the thread of her engagement through series of portraits, quasi-abstract landscapes, which are bound to surprise, and a sort of remote chronical of political life. Consisting of photographic prints, books and documents taken from the Fondation’s fund, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Musée de l’Élysée in Lausanne and the FotoMuseum in Antwerp which will present the exhibition in 2019.

The exhibition has been curated by Agnès Sire, artistic director of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

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