The Real Marcel Piron

Marcel Piron was the preferred, indeed the only authorized, photographer of the famous soprano Natasha R. Famed in his lifetime for his work as a commercial photographer, particularly for the photographs he provided for the Paris Opera and other performing venues in Europe, Piron also created a distinctive and highly personal body of work that went far beyond the concerns of commercial photography. Jeff Abell's thoughtful and detailed study of the work of Piron includes numerous images which have not been previously exhibited or published. Abell considers various aspects of Piron's oeuvre, in light of what is known about his personal life, and in comparison to other photographers active in Paris at the same time. Abell's study includes an interview with Piron's cousin, the French anthropologist Denis LaCloche, who provided Abell with material not previously available to scholars. Publication of Abell's book is expected in 2015.

 Photograph, captioned "My cousin in my kitchen," by Marcel Piron, 1975. Salt print on Arches aquarelle paper. (Portrait of Denis LaCloche.)

Photograph, captioned "My cousin in my kitchen," by Marcel Piron, 1975. Salt print on Arches aquarelle paper. (Portrait of Denis LaCloche.)

Acknowledgements:

The author wishes to thank the many people who contributed to this study of the work of Marcel Piron. Thank you to my Francophile friend Douglas Grew, who helped introduce me to Marcel and his work. Thank you to Stephen DeSantis, who taught me so much about 19th-century photographic processes. Thank you to the staff of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, especially Joël Huthwohl, Directeur Arts du spectacle, and Sylvie Aubenas, Directrice Département des Estampes et de la photographie.  The photographic work of Marcel Piron is actually divided between the Bibliothèque – Musée de l’Opéra and Bibliothèque Richelieu (currently under reconstruction). Finding the materials I needed would have been a nightmare without the help of Joël and Sylvie.  My thanks to Maurice Petite, who helped negotiate the landscape of Wallonia in Belgium, and brought me closer to the origins of the Piron family. Skye Enyeart-Rust and I took a cidre-fueled road trip together through the wilds of Picardy in search of the tiny village of Chiry, where Marcel was born. Thanks to Kristen Schleifer, for her editorial insights into this text. My thanks to the Interdisciplinary Arts Department of Columbia College Chicago, that granted me a sabbatical in the fall of 2013 that made the completion of this project possible. And my very special thanks to Denis LaCloche, whose willingness to share his insights and documents gave this study a glimpse of the real Marcel Piron that no amount of research in dusty libraries would have revealed. 

 A rare portrait of Marcel Piron (1926 - 1995) in his studio. As noted in Abell's text, the original image apparently showed two figures. But when the photo was found in Piron's studio after his death, it had been torn in half - the right side of the image was missing.

A rare portrait of Marcel Piron (1926 - 1995) in his studio. As noted in Abell's text, the original image apparently showed two figures. But when the photo was found in Piron's studio after his death, it had been torn in half - the right side of the image was missing.