III’s reign (1852-1870) coincided with the
spectacular development of photography.
III wanted to make his reign one of scientific
and social progress, of industry and art; France
would recover its place of glory among the great
European powers. Photography, symbol of technical
progress, would capture the image of a modern reign.
the official art of the Second Empire clumsily
wavered between pomp and pastiche, these fascinatingly
timeless works show nothing of it and their
modernity has become classic.
the photographers favoured by the regime, we find
some of the greatest: the Bisson brothers, Edouard
de Clercq and a few others.
this period on, a shared belief brings together photographers
and the powers that be: a faith in the value of visual
testimony and the power of conviction specific to
a photographic image.
The confrontation of the works with the political
stakes that encouraged the development of photography,
sheds light on an essential part of their meaning.
BnF, heir to royal and imperial collections since
Charles V, is putting on exhibit the albums making
up Napoleon III’s collection until 16 May,
nationale de France
Galerie de photographie
58, rue de Richelieu, Paris IIe
from february 18 to may 16 2004