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Exhibition catalogue for Henri Salesse – Nouveau Monde
at Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau Gentilly

Salesse, H. by Coutelier, D & H., Houlette (2016). Henri Salesse – Nouveau Monde. Berlin: Tumuult.

11 posters 50x50cm, 80 photographs + 3 booklets 16.7x25cm, 52 pages

ISBN 978-3-945839-04-1 by Tumuult Publishing

Through his lens, French photographer Henri Salesse observed a radically changing France in the second half of the 20th century. Although creating this unique work as a civil servant photographer for the French Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism, Salesse’s medium-format photographs reveal that he went beyond his mere task of providing a “technical verification”.

Salesse indeed clearly grasped the deep transformation of his contemporary France. In 80 images accompanied by a concise introduction by Michaël Houlette and Daniel Coutelier, the exhibition catalogue Nouveau Monde allows a unique insight into the socio-economic context and the state of reconstruction in France from the post-war years until the 1970s.

Henri Salesse (1914-2006) pursued his career in photography as a civil servant of the French state from 1945 to 1977. Along with other works carried out for the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urban Planning (MRU) and its subsequent incarnations, his images are now preserved in the photography library of the Communications Directorate at the Ministries of Environment and of Housing.

Since 2008, this library has been the object of numerous historical studies directed by the photography historian Didier Mouchel. These studies have revealed the exceptional quality of a documentary collection which was previously almost completely unknown. They allowed researchers to discover certain authors, including Salesse, as well as to contextualise the output of a state photography division founded just after liberation.

Currently integrated in the communications directorate, this photography division continues today to be responsible for the audiovisual documentation of state activity. This publication, as well as the accompanying exhibition, gives a comprehensive account of Henri Salesse’s entire administrative career, although certain reports are focused on in order to better understand his role, way of seeing, and approach as a photographer who documented the reconstruction and transformation of the French urban landscape.

To look at Salesse’s life’s work is to consider the trajectory of a technician who travelled throughout France gathering information, but it is also to document the state of destruction left by the Second World War and to follow the enormous plan for reconstruction implemented by the government at the time. More than that, however, it is to bear witness to the radical and spectacular metamorphosis of an entire country, over the space of only three decades, and what proved to be the construction of a new world.

This catalogue is published on the occasion of the exhibition Nouveau Monde Henri Salesse presented at the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau in Gentilly from 28 January until 24 April 2016, in partnership with the French Ministry of Housing, Territorial Equality and Rural Affairs; the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy; and in collaboration with Jeanine Salesse.

Daniel Coutelier

At the head of Terra, the media library of the French Ministry of Ecology and the French Ministry of Housing, Coutelier has curated numerous exhibitions in partnership with museums and galleries in order to showcase the patrimonial photography collection of the French state.

Michaël Houlette

Director of the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau, Michaël Houlette was artistic director at the French Photographic Heritage as well as exhibition curator and producer at the Jeu de Paume.

HLM Porte de Brancion. Paris, 1955



28 Jan. — 24 Apr. 16
Nouveau Monde Henri Salesse

Maison Doisneau Gentilly


ISBN 978-3-945839-05-8
80 photographs, orignal texts
English, French & German

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ISBN 978-3-945839-04-1
11 posters 50x50cm, 80 photographs
3 booklets 16.7x25cm, 52 pages
English, French & German