“The wandering photographer sees the same show that everyone else sees. He, however, stops to watch it.” – Edouard Boubat
Edouard Boubat was a French Post-War photographer known for his poetic images of nature, animals, and portraits. He was born on September 13, 1923 Montmartre, Paris. In 1938, Boubat, attended the École Estienne, where he studied to become a photo-engraver.
In 1943 he was called to serve two years du travail obligatoire/ forced labour of French people in Nazi Germany, and witnessed the horrors of World War II. Upon his return to Paris in 1946, Boubat sold his six-volume dictionary to fund the purchase of his first camera, a 6×6 Rolleicord.
After the war, he gradually established himself as a photographer in Paris and by 1951 was exhibiting alongside Brassaï and Robert Doisneau. However, his approach to photography was deeply affected by the war: “Because I know war… because I know the horror, I don’t want to add to it… After the war, we felt the need to celebrate life, and for me photography was the means to achieve this.” Over a 50 year career, Boubat’s photographs did just that.
In 1950, Boubat’s work was initially published by the Swiss magazine Caméra. Soon after, he became acquainted with the artistic director of the French magazine Realités. From then on, Boubat traveled the world for the prestigious magazine. His assignments often took him to poor and desolate regions, but Boubat still managed to capture only love and beauty. His special gift as a photojournalist was finding the common thread that linked the everyday life of people everywhere.
For Boubat, photography meant meeting his fellow man. He loved to photograph humanity; his images bear witness to the specific relationship he had with his subjects, on which he commented: “We are living photographs. Photography reveals the images within us.”
Instead of espousing a political agenda, his photographs prioritised the vitality of life without being sentimental. “There is something instinctive about the moment you choose to ‘take’ a photograph,” Boubat said. “It’s not the result of thought or reflection. The strength of the composition is always born of the instant of the decision. It reminds me of archery. There is the tension of the bow and the free flight of the arrow.”
He celebrated the beauty, simplicity, and the little things in life. His first professional photograph was taken in the Jardin du Luxembourg in 1946, “Little Girl with Dead Leaves,” a charming and magical shot. The following year, at the age of 24, Boubat exhibited the picture at the Salon International de la Photographie organised by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and was awarded the Kodak Prize. It was an amazing start to his career.
In 1968, Boubat left Realités magazine, but continued to work on an independent basis. He tirelessly sought to bring the emotion and beauty of life to our gaze. Considered an heir of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” photography, Boubat had a rare talent for capturing those fleeting, magical moments that can only be immortalised by the confident eye of a true master.
Boubat died in 1999 in Paris, leaving behind a remarkable collection of photography, on which he often philosophised: “Over a lifetime I have noticed that everything is woven together by chance encounters and special moments,” he said. “A photograph gives you a deep insight into a moment, it recalls a whole world.”