Julien is a PhD student from Paris who did us a huge favour recently. He increased the number of photographs we have by Robert Demachy—by one. And he did it simply by lifting up a piece of paper. The full story follows…
Julien has been jetting over from France since February to explore our collection of photographs by Demachy. Demachy was a Frenchman whose early pictorial photography made him one of the world’s most famous photographers by the early 20th century. He had a record five exhibitions dedicated to him at the Photographic Society in London—but mysteriously hung up his camera for good in 1914, never to so much as photograph his grandchildren again. Incidentally, he was also one of the very first people in France to have a car.
We have all the prints that Demachy originally donated to the Royal Photographic Society, but it was one in particular—RPS3647, La Cueillette (‘Gathering’)—that led to Julien’s big moment. Looking at the picture, Julien noticed that the corner of the print was peeling at the corner, detatching slightly from its cardboard backing. And there was something underneath.
That something turned out to be an entirely different Demachy print—entitled Ploërmel, Brittany. It seems that Demachy was either unhappy with this hidden print, or was just short on backing boards and had to reuse it for La Cueillette.
So Julien’s eagle eye uncovered an important early photograph we (and the Royal Photographic Society) didn’t even know we had.
Here’s a final picture of the reverse of the backing board. The stickers show where and when it was exhibited—and the scribbled handwriting is Demachy’s own, as he marked the prints for donation to either the RPS or the Photo-Club de Paris. Judging by the crossing out at the bottom, Demachy must have changed his mind about this one.
You can find out more about our collection on our website.