The last of the great French mid-century photographers has died. Willy Ronis, who had been on dialysis and in a wheelchair for some time, entered a Paris hospital several days ago. Stephane Ledoux, head of Eyedea Presse, owner of Rapho agency, said he was "bright and spirited to the end." He was 99.
Ronis is best known for his pictures of everyday life in Provence and in Paris, in particular the working-class districts of Belleville and Montmartre. His most famous picture is "Le Nu Provencal," a nude of his wife, Marie-Anne Lansiaux, bending over a sink in a rustic bathroom.
His pictures are lyrical, humanistic, warm, respectful, the opposite of dry, often packed full of information and of the sense of life and the love of people, sometimes shading into the formally pictorialist or the sentimental. He was prolific. He published many books, had many exhibits, won many awards. He decided to become a photographer in 1937, and joined Rapho, the French photo agency founded by Charles Rado in 1933, when it was reopened in 1946 by Raymond Grosset. Other Rapho photographers central to postwar photography in Paris included Doisneau, Boubat, Brandt, Izis, Ylla, Sabine Weiss, Brassai, and Lartigue. Considered one of the greatest photographers during the postwar era, Ronis's influence waned somewhat during the photo boom as the prevailing style became more iconoclastic and distanced.
Obituary (in English)
Video interview (in French)
Purchase (U.S.): Kathleen Ewing Gallery, Washington, D.C. (Artist's page)
Quote: "I never, ever went out without my camera, even to buy bread."
Featured Comment by Robin P: "Sad news. Definitely my favourite of the great French photographers. His pictures have a way of renewing my love of the world and its inhabitants whenever I slip into despondant cynicism."