Paris, Éditions La Martinière, 2020
A portrait photographer leading a large Genevan studio, Fred Boissonnas (1858-1946) is remarkable in the history of photography for the scope and diversity of his production, the length of his career—from 1880 until the 1930s—and the range of his collaborations. This volume presents the work he elaborated throughout the Mediterranean during the first three decades of the twentieth century. It traces the sinuous geography of his career, from the Alps to the deserts of Sinai, and weaves together the varied dimensions of an extremely prolific career: from simple business-card photos to monumental books ; from pictorialist photography to registering scientific expeditions crisscrossing the Mediterranean; from local photographic surveys in Geneva to national surveys of Greece and Egypt.
In portraying traces of Phoenician, Egyptian, Greek, Hebraic, Roman, Muslim, and Christian heritage across the Mediterranean, Boissonnas’ images have participated in extending the visibility of the world and giving it a new intelligibility, as with the romantic artists. They both amplified and brought up to date the fantasies of Europeans, for whom the shores of the Mediterranean remained a potent imaginary resource in the first half of the twentieth century, in the face of wars, economic crises, and the constraints of industrial society.