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Theory & Practice

Richard Kalvar: Photo Poche

A new monograph, edited by the late Robert Delpire, is a study of the Magnum photographer’s keen observational sense

Richard Kalvar

Richard Kalvar Paris. Rue de l'Ouest. 1974. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos

One of the late great photo editor Robert Delpire’s last projects was a ‘Photo Poche’ about Magnum photographer Richard Kalvar. To mark the occasion of its release, and in homage to the editor, the publisher – Actes Sud – is running a satellite exhibition at its bookstore during the Arles photography festival.

The Photo Poche is a concept developed by Delpire to serve as an introduction to the oeuvre of a photographer. In 1982, just after being appointed director of the National Center of Photography by Minister of Culture Jack Lang, he proposed the launch of a series which he thought of as a “free course in the history of photography”. The Photo Poche “has the ambition to offer photography books that are carefully printed, manageable in their format and accessible by their price, to all those who are passionate about a means of expression whose importance is clearly recognized”.

Richard Kalvar New York. Bryant Park. 1969. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar Warsop Vale. England. 1974. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar France. Brittany. Erdeven. 1988. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar Rome. Trastevere. 1980. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos

"In life, I float in a world of ambiguity, where meaning is multiple and far from clear"

- Richard Kalvar

The Photo Poche is the perfect format to take an introductory tour through the work of Richard Kalvar, who describes his approach as “more like poetry than photojournalism – it attacks on the emotional level, although poetry works through sound and photography through seeing.”

Richard Kalvar Cologne. 1979. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos

Kalvar’s work often showcases his sense of humor, pushing ordinary things to their logical but absurd conclusions. “In life, I float in a world of ambiguity, where meaning is multiple and far from clear”, he explains. “If I let myself go when I photograph, it makes sense that I would have a tendency to do the same thing… So I think that my best pictures turn out to be witty, ambiguous, and full of strong feelings, often with a streak of absurdity. When I first began photographing I didn’t try to do any of this; I just took pictures of things that caught my eye, and I was amazed to discover, in looking at my contact sheets, that the real me was coming out, unconsciously, irrepressibly.”

"My best pictures are witty, ambiguous, and full of strong feelings"

- Richard Kalvar
Richard Kalvar Belgium. La Louviere. 1979. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar Paris. Hôtel Dieu. 2000. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos

Exhibition Details

Actes Sud will be showcasing a selection of prints from books edited by Robert Delpire, including 10 images from Richard’s Kalvar‘s Photo Poche – one of the last books to be edited by the late photo editor.

Exhibition venue: Actes Sud Bookstore, Atelier des Forges, Arles
Dates: July 2 – September 23
Opening hours: 9:30 – 19:30, Tuesday to Saturday. 11:30 / 19:30 Sunday and Monday.

Richard Kalvar will be signing books on Friday July 6, at 6pm, at Croisière, 59 boulevard Émile Combes, 13200 Arles

Richard Kalvar’s Photo Poche will be on sale in Arles and will be in bookstores from July 15th.

Richard Kalvar Rome. 1982. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos