Promotion de la Photographie de Presse en Région P.A.C.A.


Serge Assier, who will be fifty this year, started work as a shepherd when he was sixteen. By the time he was twenty-eight he had become a photo-journalist.

Serge has many friends. I count him as one of mine since that day in 1987 when he refused my offer of a job as head of the photography department of the Provençal newspaper - a job I had felt obliged to offer him.

Now I knew he had a wide variety of interests as well as the ability to take in a situation at a single glance - or in a single photo - whether the subject was writers, politicians, ordinary people in the news or angry trade-unionists. More than this, though, he had an overwhelming need for freedom in order to create. After all, caged birds do not sing well even in a gilded cage.

What Serge Assier needed to awaken his muse was the air and the mistral of his native Provence; the noise of the traffic and the clatter of the rigging in the port of Marseille. His friend the poet René Char understood this. But what passed between the poet of l'Isle sur Sorgue and my reporter colleague, who already had quite enough courage of his own, to make him turn down a well-earned promotion?

I'll never know, but true photographers, like true poets, who know how to look behind appearances, instinctively seek one another out. They have a love of life and the images it creates that is too simple and direct for the rest of us. What brought this poet and this photographer together was surely their joint discovery of the magical side of life.

The self-taught Serge instantly understood Char's poetry while Char immediately saw all that Assier's vision could encompass. It is now fourteen years since this moment of mutual understanding occurred and the friendship between these two visionaries was born. Henceforth one would take photographs while the other wrote verse to accompany them. The effect on visitors to their joint exhibitions in Arles and elsewhere was dramatic.

But we should not get too carried away with this idea of the photographer as poet. At fifty Serge Assier is more a photojournalist than a poet. The proof is that his inborn artistic sense never leads him to prettify the harsh sides of life. When, for example, he wants to capture a news story he is perfectly capable of dashing down a street like any other news reporter. The difference is that he works as fast as he runs. In the twinkling of a an eye he snaps the essential image that encapsulates the story. His silent image will finish up surrounded by words on the printed newspaper page, speaking more eloquently than all of them. Because, fortunately, the ex-shepherd Serge Assier, who has been exhibiting photos of the female nude for years, does not feel himself to be superior to everyday events; he has too much affection for the newspapers, radio and television that depend on them. This means that he remains faithful to those who, like him, cannot imagine any other sort of life than that in which the greatest number of people are involved.

That, then, is what brought us together nine years ago in what, for me, has proved a long, faithful friendship: freely writing about and showing the life of ordinary people.

Ivan Levaï

The Theatre of life

How time flies with its joys and its sorrows, its successes and failures !

From my beginnings as a reporter-cum-photographer for the South of France Gamma Agency between 1976 and 1984 to my career as a photographer-cum-reporter on "Le Provençal" since 1982.

Twenty years of photojournalism and now a retrospective exhibition of 80 of my pictures in the area where I was born. All the photos in the exhibition were first distributed by the Gamma Agency or published in "Le Provençal".

I wanted to use this exhibition to show how a local newspaper photographer can find his work published on an international scale.

Although some of the pictures are in colour, most are in black and white. As well as the portraits, many of the black and white pictures deal with social, journalistic and news themes.

Some of them are also records of encounters ("The Theatre of Life") that have left their mark as well as many friendships.

The pleasure, not say the pride, of a press photographer comes from seeing his pictures published. But when publication is on an international scale the pleasure is nothing short of sheer joy!

If I had wanted to publish all my work I would have had to print a minimum of 300 pictures. Instead I have chosen to print my best-quality work together with the accompanying texts. I hope that by doing this I can maybe leave an impression on the collective memory - and on my own fifty-year old memory!

George Perros was right when he said, "Poetry is in the streets and in the gutter; it has no notion of class. It knows nothing. It is the song of our ignorance".

I discovered photography and poetry at the same time 22 years ago. Photography has become my passion.

As I sometimes say when I go to speak at schools, colleges and universities, I was not born in a dark room with my photographic equipment slung over my shoulder. The camera, that creator of images, came much later.

Although technique can be grasped, learned and refined, looking, composition, sensitivity and feeling - in fact everything that makes a real photograph - cannot be learned. They are inborn and stay with you for life.

The same life that, caught in a thousandth of a second, finds its definitive place on that gallery wall of time and space called Eternity.

Serge Assier

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