History fact: it happened on August 14 in Paris

Published by Manon C. · Published on 16 August 2021 at 14h46
Willy Ronis was born on August 14, 1910 at the foot of the Butte Montmartre. In love with Paris, the photographer dedicated his life to softly and poetically capture Parisians’ daily lives, preferring candid shots rather than staged ones.

It happened on August 14 in Paris. One of the greatest photographers of Paris and its inhabitants was born on August 14, 1910 in Paris 9th arrondissement.

Born in a music loving family, from a Jewish Lithuanian pianist mother who fled from the pogroms from the Russian Empire, and a Jewish father emigrated from Ukraine and photograph editor, Willy Ronis was born on August 14, 1910 at the foot of the Butte Montmartre. For his 15th birthday, his father gives him his first camera, although the young Willy wishes – at that time – to become a music composer.

A milestone in Willy Ronis’s life who then starts to roam around the streets of Paris and shoots on his rolls moments of Parisians’ lives, being especially interested in works by Brassai, Pierre Boucher and Rogi André.

Éphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à ParisÉphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à ParisÉphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à ParisÉphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à Paris

Back from his military service, Ronis pays interest in politics and social fights, while the Popular Front wins the 1936 legislative elections. He passionately follows the working-class protests and captures some striking shots for the Regards magazine.

All his life, he has been fascinated by the working-class world, documenting then the strikes at the Citroën factories set Quai de Javel in 1938 – where he photographed trade unionist Rose Zehner – at the Saint-Etienne mines in 1948, and at Renault Billancourt in 1950. At the same time, he commits himself to the Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires [Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists] alongside his friend and photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, and joins in 1945 the French Communist Party.

When his father dies in 1935, and after selling his father’s photo studio, Ronis turns to photo-report and his first orders are placed by the SNCF and the Commissariat au Tourisme. But after the Vichy regime took over in 1940, he is forced to flee from the capital city. Refusing to be categorized as a Jew and wear the yellow star, Willy Ronis clandestinely crosses the French Demarcation Line and runs to hide in unoccupied France, in Nice, Cannes and then in Vaucluse.

Éphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à ParisÉphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à ParisÉphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à ParisÉphéméride : Ça s'est passé un 14 août à Paris

Once the war is over, he joins in the Rapho Agency and the great photographers from this era such as Brassai and Doisneau at the top, travels for a series of reports in all Europe, and works with many magazines, such as American Life magazine. But like with the Rapho agency – he leaves in 1955 – Ronis puts an end to his partnership with Life, as he does not agree to see his photo work edited and stripped away from its original meaning.

All along his career as a photographer, this lover of Paris and spearhead of the humanist movement in post-war photography was more into candid shots than staged ones, betting on random, uncertainty and coincidences of life.

In Paris, the popular districts of Belleville and Ménilmontant were a major part of his most poetic and tender work, taking particular care to Parisians’ daily lives, no matter how old they were, shot on the go and during moments of popular jubilation.

Suffering from arthritis, Willy Ronis stops photography in 2002 and dies, almost at a hundred, on September 12, 2009 in his adopted city, Paris.

Practical information

Location

Paris
75 Paris

More informations
Photographies :
Les amoureux de la Bastille, Paris, 1957
Le bateau-mouche, Paris, 1949
Le petit parisien, Paris, 1952
© Ministère de la Culture - Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine, dist. RMN-GP, donation Willy Ronis

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