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"Izis, Paris des Rêves" at Hôtel de Ville

Chalon Text: Joanna Bronowicka

A sunny afternoon by the Seine: a worker is taking a nap on the banks, a couple is kissing under the bridge, and an old man is fishing as his wife is knitting next to him.  For a few moments they take refuge from the difficult reality of Paris ravaged by war and poverty after World War II without realizing that Izis catches them in the act of daydreaming. Asked why he chose Paris after having fled the persecution of Jews in Lithuania in 1930, Izis replied, “Because it excited my imagination. It was the City of Lights. For me everything was happening in Paris. Liberty, Equality of man and Culture, that’s what made us dream.” The retrospective of his photography at Hotel de Ville "Izis, Paris des Rêves" invites us to discover this dreamlike poetry in the everyday life of Paris.
The exposition opens with a series of portraits of maquisards, the French resistance fighters. Izis who joined the French Resistance army during the war, decided to portray of his companions soon after liberation of Limousin in 1944 using only a white background and no retouching. It is precisely this raw quality of the portraits of men with bright eyes and timid smiles that makes their heroism more credible and palpable. The portraits of famous French people Izis took during twenty years of collaboration with Paris Match also capture their unrehearsed dignity: Colette on a wheelchair looking out the window, Camus leaning out of a balcony or Chagall looking at his sketches of the Garnier Opera ceiling at a coffee table in Vence.   

Together with other photographers such as Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sabine Weiss and Willy Ronis, Izis represents the French Humanist photography in the second half of the 20th century. Every one of Izis' photographs of children, workers, flower and bird vendors, vagabonds or cripples emanates with the beauty and grace of the human being.  His Parisians seem to live in harmony with nature and eagerly share their city with pigeons, cats, dogs and horses. They enjoy the feeling of community and solidarity during popular celebrations: a carnival in the streets, an amusement park at the Place de la République, the circus. “I was often told that my photographs are not realist,” Izis admits “Maybe they are not realist, but this is my reality.”

Hôtel de Ville
Salon d'accueil
5, rue Lobau
75004 Paris
Metro: Hôtel de Ville
Until 29th May 2010
Open every day from 10am – 6:45pm except Sundays and public holidays.
Last admission at 6:15. Admission free.

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