Photographic archives of Polish immigration to the coal basin of northern France, in the 1920s / 1930s.
Born in 1904 in the industrial region of the Ruhr (Germany) to parents originally from Poland, Kasimir Zgorecki emigrated to the North of France with his family at the age of 18. A background minor for some six months, he then turned to professional photography and in 1924 took over his brother-in-law’s studio in Rouvroy, in Pas-de-Calais. His career focused mainly on portraits of the region’s Polish population – whose immigration was linked to the heavy coal and steel industry – soon flourished. Zgorecki is particularly involved in identity photography, which became mandatory on the cards of foreigners working in France in 1917.
This activity provides him with an important source of income: he strategically uses a single glass negative for several portraits, having his subjects pose in front of a neutral background. In contrast, the style of his family portraits is often more staged. Working both in his studio, outdoors or in his clients’ homes, Zgorecki photographs the Polish community on different occasions, providing work of an anthropological nature.
This book brings together more than 150 photographs covering the period from 1924 to 1947 and discusses the role of studio photography in the 1920s and 1930s. This bilingual edition, reflecting the course of the exhibition, is intended to be the first in-depth study of the work of the photographer.
Exhibition by Kasimir Zgorecki, presented at the Jeu de Paume
– Château de Tours from October 30, 2020 to May 25, 2021
Kasimir Zgorecki was born in 1904 in the industrial region of the Ruhr region (Germany), where his parents, Polish immigrants from Poznan, had settled to work in the coal mines. The Zgorecki family emigrated to the north of France in 1922; he was then 18 years old. Zgorecki was a miner for some six months, but then turned to professional photography and in 1924 took over his brother-in-law’s photography studio (in Rouvroy, Pas-de-Calais, France). He mainly produces portraits of Polish immigrants from the region; its activity quickly flourishes.
After graduate studies in art, then in art history, Pia Viewing began working at the Contemporary Art Center La Criée in Rennes, where she created the educational service. A post at the Fondation De Appel in Amsterdam was followed, between 1996 and 2004, by a committed work at the International Center of Art and Landscape of Vassivière in Limousin. After seven years at the Regional Center of Photography (CRP) in Douchy-les-Mines, Pia Viewing moved to new horizons to become a researcher and exhibitions curator at the Jeu de Paume in Paris.
Pia Viewing, Frédéric Lefever, Yves Frey, Anne Cartier-Bresson
Marc Pataut, de proche en proche
Pia Viewing, Marianne Dautrey, Stefano Chiodi, Jean-François Chevrier
Souterrain / Subterranean
Selen Ansen, Pia Viewing, Paul Ardenne, Barbara Polla
Corps en résistance
Marta Gili, Arlette Farge, Marie-José Mondzain, Pia Viewing
Frédéric Lefever is an artist-photographer in the Pas-de-Calais. He is also a professor at the European Higher School of Image in Angoulême.
Yves Frey has a doctorate in history, specializing in immigration. A retired professor from the University of Haute-Alsace, he is a researcher at CRESAT, Center for Research in the Arts, Sciences and Techniques. Among his published works, we can cite Histoire des Polonais en France (Détour, 2019).
Anne Cartier-Bresson is general heritage curator. A doctorate in art history, she has published numerous articles and books on material history, the conservation and restoration of photographs, including L’Objet photographique, une invention permanence (Photo Poche, 2012) and In the studio. by the photographer (Paris-Musées, 2012).