60 Species of Photographic Spaces

Exploring the collections
18.06 – 12.12.2022

What does it mean to collect and exhibit? What are the motivations underlying a collection and how does its appreciation evolve over time? Finally, how can we give the public the opportunity to perceive the way a collection is built and designed? These are some of the questions that arose when we decided to appropriate the new space dedicated to the collections of Photo Elysée. 60 Species of Photographic Spaces – Exploring the Collections reflects our desire to reinterpret one of the classic museographic formats, namely the presentation of collections, in a dynamic, stimulating and contemporary way.

Our collections, with their wide range of photographic techniques and diverse genres that represent photography from its very beginnings to the present day, have been built according to a generalist approach to photography for almost four decades. Among the thousands of objects from our collections – which together total more than one million – a choice was made in several steps on the basis of formal, historical, cultural and technical criteria. The 600 selected photographs were classified into 60 thematic categories. These categories are emblematic of our various acquisition policies adopted over time, but are also capable of dialoguing with the diversity of contemporary studies devoted to the image through disciplines such as art history, anthropology, gender studies, history, sociology and cultural studies.

An evolving project

This exhibition is a project that will evolve over several years, like collections or museums themselves that are constantly changing depending on the individuals involved and the varying historical contexts. For the next five years, ten themes, each composed of ten images, will be simultaneously shown to the public. Since the fragile material nature of photography makes it necessary to change them regularly, five themes will be renewed every five months until all 60 subjects have been shown. The exhibition reveals a particular vision of photography linked to the specific institutional history of Photo Elysée. Analyzing and selecting works are subjective actions, often individual, motivated by the desire for knowledge and a better understanding of the world. It therefore presents only one possible aspect of the exploration of the collections. It is, above all, the fruit of teamwork, notably through texts written by people from different horizons associated with the museum. Most especially, it bears witness to a diversified and dynamic photography, found in many social use contexts, notably artistic.

Throughout its history, photographic technologies and the resulting social practices have repeatedly and effortlessly crossed disciplinary boundaries in the arts, sciences, politics and society. Given the breadth of the collections, our project has neither the ambition to be exhaustive, nor the will to propose a definitive vision of the history of photography. Instead, it provides tools for a playful probing of the collections and to give form to the immense thematic diversity they cover.

Partners

The exhibition is supported by the Coromandel Foundation and the Leenaards Foundation.