Biography of Emmanuel Sougez (1889-1972)

French photographer born in 1889 and died in 1972, promoter of the movement "New objectivity" in France.


He studied painting and sculpture at the school of fine arts of Bordeaux, but soon opted for photography. It was to acquire know-how to Paris and then on to Germany and Switzerland, where surprised by the outbreak of the first world war. Back in France, he settled in Paris where he began to develop his career.

In 1926 he founded the photo service of L'llustration directed until 1945, working in parallel in the illustration of art books. With twenty years, began to make artistic photographs, the majority of large format, in which are observed, fundamentally, the techniques of still life and nudes. In this way, Sougez began to emerge as a creative photographer with a closely related own line with the German power "New objectivity". His work is universally known for his still lifes made with camera format 30 x 40, which chooses everyday items whose beauty is notable for a very refined lighting. Also his series of nudes made with the legendary model Assia, are very representative of their production.

Sougez was the promoter of the settlement of this "new objectivity" in France, where it received the name of "Pure photography" that asserted a sharp image and without manipulation. Throughout his career he collaborated with the best French and foreign publications l'art vivant, Jazz, Le point, Vu..., but without doubt the most interesting was Arts et Métiers Graphiques whose annual photographic supplement coordinated between 1930 and 1939, and where you can see their "savoir faire" for artistic photo. At the same time, he directed the photographic section of the Salon of artists, decorators and carried out some books for children, Regarde! in 1931 or Alphabet a year later.

He was one of the founders of the group "Le Rectangle" between the wars in 1935, whose main members - including Doisneau- returned to grouped as "XV" in 1946, at the end of the last world war. His professional activity was extended also to the field of the history of photography with the elaboration of historical and theoretical texts on art and photography, as well as conferences and articles in technical and aesthetic content.

At the end of his career, he devoted special attention to the promotion of young photographers. He participated in numerous exhibitions in France and abroad and also realized some individual in life. After his death, his work has long been remembered not only through many exhibitions that have been held over the past years, but also by the incredible theoretical legacy which rushed upon him.

His photographs boast an exquisite composition and impeccable lighting. The naked bodies are perfect in the eyes of the Viewer, while the objects that make up his still lifes claim a little known truth so far. The use of large formats allowed him to perfect image reproduction, sometimes austere image but always serene but not lack of true symbolism as he presents in "The skeleton of racism", a work of 1934 where, with the technique of still life, sufficiently known by the author, reflects a dish with the remains of a bunch of grapes and, on the plate a perfect shadow of an object that does not appear in box: is the pain, misunderstanding, isolation and the submission of those who suffer the consequences of intolerance.

This austerity giving Sougez el Bodegón, leaving it all in the hands of a flawless composition, shown in "Three pears" also from 1934, where fruit, perfectly placed are focusing the attention of the Viewer on a dark background and a continuous stack of dishes. Kinder is another composition of 1930, "The soap bubbles" where, an anonymous character, by the darkness of the silhouette that is pictured, blows up to generate a pump that skillfully the author freeze before touching the death.

It is definitely the work of a photographer that is delivered to the knowledge of the environment in which moved. Without ornamentation, with exquisite, eerily cold and extremely pure fidelity, his images are boasting of austere composition which does not seem that the author has medidado. His photographs resemble reality itself, one of the maxims of this "new objectivity" that proclaimed.

Related topics.

New objectivity.


SOUGEZ, Emmanuel. La photographie. I: son historie; II: They are the universe. (Paris: L'Illustration, 1968).

SOUGEZ, Marie-Lou. History of photography. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1985, Second Edition).