The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Exhibition at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations retraces the era of the photo-novel
Cover of Satanik No. 14 Le Masque de la Mort, France, 1967. Private collection. Photo: © Josselin Rocher.

MARSEILLE.- Originating in Italy in 1947, the photo-novel was an instant success. It would remain a bestselling genre of popular literature worldwide for nearly a quarter of a century. Magazines were passed from hand to hand, and readers were counted in the millions. By the 1960s, one in three French people read photo-novels.

Yet, the photo-novel has only rarely attracted the attention of historians, archivists, museums, or art centres because it is typically perceived as a vulgar subgenre. This exhibition examines its origins, from its debut to the development of its archetypes, and even its deviances. The aim is to move beyond stereotypes of the photo-novel as merely a ‘soap opera’ genre, and recognise it as a reflection of society.

Through more than 300 objects (magazines, original photographs, models, films…), the exhibition retraces an era, its dreams and its fears, and features novel treasures like a collection from the Italian publisher Mondadori. These holdings, made up of thousands of negatives from photo-novels published between the late 1940s and the early 1980s, have never been shown to the public. The exhibition also focuses on the numerous celebrities who were featured in photo-novels (Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Johnny Hallyday, Mireille Mathieu, Dalida, Dick Rivers, Hugh Grant, etc…) and addresses the unanimous criticism to which the photo-novel was subjected. Communists, intellectuals, and Catholics accused it of being insipid, stupid and even perverse. Fascinated by the genre, Roland Barthes wrote: ‘Nous Deux—the magazine—is more obscene than Sade’. The exhibition also outlines the globalisation of the photo-novel, which was exported—then manufactured – in Madrid, Caracas, Beirut and Buenos Aires…

Although its golden age is long past, the photo-novel is not dead. Nous Deux still publishes 350,000 copies a week and can now be read online. More importantly, the photo-novel has been continually replicated. Pornographers, structuralists, writers, and satirists have appropriated its narrative style to tell of other things than just love stories that end well. A large section of the exhibition is devoted to Killing, aka Satanik in French, an erotic-sadistic photo-novel from the late 1960’s, which has had a lasting impact despite being censored. From Chris Marker to Professor Choron, by way of Duane Michals, the exhibition reveals the extent of this rampant and explosive output.

A brief history of the photo-novel
The photo-novel was born in Italy in 1947. The country had been defeated and bled dry. Publishing newspapers in this context was challenging since even paper was rationed. Yet some, understanding that above all the country needed to dream and to escape, responded by inventing the photo-novel. The success was immediate, surprising even its inventors who were sometimes obliged to hastily reprint issues that sold out.

While these soap operas eventually required large-scale productions, their fabrication remained artisanal for quite some time. The production techniques were very similar to those for the cinema. Besides the actors, crews included a screenwriter, producer, stage director, photographer, and sometimes a makeup artist. Notably, these artisans were rarely mentioned in the credits of photo-novels.

The best optics were used for shooting: Rolleiflex, Mamiya or, later, Hasselblad. The film formats employed were 6 × 6, or 6 × 9 for the covers. The scenes were lighted using flashes in various locations. After developing the film, the selected images were printed, cropped, retouched with gouache, then pasted on cardboard according to the page format of the photo-novel. The speech balloons, manuscripts or typescripts, were superimposed over the images or directly glued onto the photos.

Over time, the photo-novel adapted to changes in photography and printing methods. The 24 × 36 film format and colour appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, all photo-novels are produced digitally.

Today's News

December 24, 2017

Exhibition at Centre Pompidou takes a fresh look at the work of André Derain

Auckland Art gallery obliterated by Yayoi Kusama participatory installation

Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art highlights the Vajracharya priest's crowns of Nepal

Deutsche Bank KunstHalle presents a comprehensive retrospective of Fahrelnissa Zeid

The Amsterdam Museum to present its restored masterpieces at TEFAF Maastricht

Britain's iconic red phone boxes ring the changes

The Nasher Museum of Art presenting the first-ever exhibition of works by Carlo Dolci

Automobilia goes up for bid January 7, 2018, at Turner Auctions + Appraisals

Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology: Shinji Murakami exhibits at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery

New lowriders grace Petersen Automotive Museum lobby this holiday season

Guggenheim announces short list for Hugo Boss Prize 2018

"Home Beirut. Sounding the Neighbors" on view at MAXXI - National Museum of XXI Century Arts

Rosenfeld Porcini opens themed exhibition Combining Materials

Triennale di Milano opens retrospective dedicated to the visionary designer Rick Owens

Art Brussels exhibitors announced for 50th anniversary

Bye Bye De Stijl: Contemporary artists respond to De Stijl on view at Centraal Museum

Brand new immersive ABBA exhibition unveiled at Southbank Centre

La Criée centre for contemporary art opens final exhibition of the cycle on the idea of narrative

Tomoo Gokita joins Blum & Poe

Phoenix Art Museum explores the mid-century revolution and evolution of photography

Beaverbrook Art Gallery's transformation continues with changes on its board

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates most checked out book of 2017 at NYPL

Exhibition at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations retraces the era of the photo-novel

Exhibition explores the striking, beautiful portraiture emerging from 100 years of Australian movies

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful