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4 July 2014

Léon Gimpel, La guerre des gosses*

Paris, August 1915: men are at war and women work Far from their parents, the children of the rue Greneta play at battle. Equipped with only his camera and the inspiration of a few Poulbot drawings, Léon Gimpel faced this army of kids. From this encounter in the heart of the Sentier neighbourhood was born a series of staged photographic tableaux, alternating between colour (autochrome) and black and white. As the days went by, Léon Gimpel and his army of kids developed a kind of typology in miniature of images of the Great War. Almost all the archetypal scenes are representedIt is not death that Gimpel and the army of the rue Greneta playact, but heroism, courage, and the victory of the children of France. Above all, Gimpel and his ‘little doughboys’ from the heart of Paris reveled in photographing and being photographed. The weekly L’Illustration, for which the photojournalist regularly worked, found the army of the rue Greneta too frivolous. But in autumn 1915 enlarged photographs of the troops had pride of place in the display windows of the Société Lumière on the rue de Rivoli.

Luce Lebart, exhibition curator

*Kids at War

Exhibition curator: Luce Lebart, head of collections at the SFP.

Exhibition produced in partnership with the Société Française de Photographie.

Exhibition venue: église des Frères-Prêcheurs, Rencontres d’Arles 2014.