Monday’s Photography Inspiration – Bruno Braquehais

Bruno Braquehais was a French photographer born in 1823. He was active primarily in Paris in the mid-19th century.

Braquehais trained in the lithographic workshop at the state school for the deaf that he attended between the ages of nine and twelve. He showed talent and upon graduation worked as a lithographer before setting himself up as an artist in Paris. His marriage to the daughter of a commercial daguerreotypist precipitated his professional shift to photography.

 From 1853 to 1855 Braquehais produced his best-known work: nude artists’ studies, or académies, which were used primarily by painters as preparatory studies. Many of these images were coloured by his wife, Laure. He registered his first photographs for sale in 1854. 

Female Nude by Bruno Braquehais
Standing Female Nude in Diaphanous Gown by Bruno Braquehais

Art critics have pointed out that many of Braquehais’s photographs of female nudes are cluttered with distracting objects (e.g., the Venus de Milo), giving the model the appearance of being isolated. Notable portraits by Braquehais include composer Ludwig Minkus and choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon.

Upon the death of his father-in-law in 1855, Braquehais inherited his daguerreotype portrait studio and continued to run it successfully. In 1871 he produced an album of 109 photographs of the Paris Commune, a three-month insurrection against the French government. His photographs documenting the toppling of the Vendôme Column include scenes of the Column before its fall, a scene showing workers with ropes tied to the column ready to pull it down, and a photograph of Communards posing next to the toppled statue of Napoleon that had graced the top of the column. Braquehais also took numerous photographs of the various barricades the Communards had erected in anticipation of an invasion of republican forces, troops gathered at Tuileries Palace and Porte Maillot, and the ruins of the Maison Thiers.

Ruins from the Commune Revolt by Bruno Braquehais
Soldiers of the Commune by Bruno Braquehais
Commune barricade by Bruno Braquehais

Though he faced his share of financial troubles, his career lasted twenty-five years. He declared bankruptcy in 1873 and by December of that year was in prison for defrauding an investor. He died at home shortly after his release.

Coin des Rues St. Martin et Rivoli by Bruno Braquehais

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