Henri Dauman: A photographer of whom you may unaware

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Was at the Photo Review‘s annual garden party near Lancaster, PA a couple weeks ago. It was a low-key affair in the country with a marvelous spread, great South African wine, informal portfolio viewings of passionate and talented artists, and accompanied by the sounds of a great jazz band. I was admiring a selection of black and white monographs printed by a publishing company on display, and was joined by a dapper man of a certain age, French in dress in accent, i.e. nattily dressed and well-spoken. I looked through about twenty monographs, more often than not, black and white photographs of predictable landscapes by famous names, and finally, i could restrain myself no longer. I looked at the man and said, “But there’s nothing really surprising in any of this is there?” And he replied, “No, you’re right, there isn’t.” It just seemed such a shame to have such beautiful reproduction and then have the same material, more or less, reproduced over and over again. And while there is certainly a place for this type of work (restaurant walls, living room walls, in the collection of any collector with no imagination), it just seemed like complete redundancy.

So we began a conversation and it turned out that Henri Dauman was a photojournalist from back in the heyday of pj. He covered and made famous photographs of famous people for the usual suspects: Life, The New York Times, Town and Country, but the pictures which speak to me most are his everyday scenes, like Long Island teenagers or sunbathers on a deck, New Yorkers crowding on a roof top. It’s a shame that online his work represented by miniscule pictures on his website, where one cannot bask in the full glory of 11×14 fiber, but such is life.

He helped save Brassai’s collection from obscurity, befriending his fellow Parisian and helping to catalogue the work. And what struck me the most about him, was that unlike many with a few years to their back and more magazine covers under their belt, he did not feel the need to impress his superiority or achievements on us, nor did he wallow in the bitterness that confounds regarding the state of the industry – the death of photojournalism etc. etc. Henri was clearly living in the present and savoring meeting new people, appreciative that they might be familiar with his work, but more interested in conversations directed elsewhere. He was someone who I knew instantly I would enjoy spending time with, not someone who wanted to cultivate a sycophantic following, but a man interested in something besides himself and his legacy. It didn’t hurt that he was a charming flirt as well.

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9 thoughts on “Henri Dauman: A photographer of whom you may unaware

  1. Hi: It was about 42 years ago that Henri and a small team set off across America for the BBC film I was making about the missile arms race: first stop Whiteman airforce base near Kansas where we went on duty with two controllers. Incredibly, we actually got into the actual control room – mainly because Henri chatted up and befriended the tough marine guards. Then I asked Henri and Al Wertheimer to extend the trip: the bomb museum at Alberquerque followed; then Los Alamos; LA with some anti-war people: and Edward Teller in Berkeley. Finally, we filmed in the Pentagon.
    Quite a trip!
    All the best
    Peter

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      • Hi Susana: Just to embellish the story with a further ‘photographic footnote’ — Yosuf Karsh was with Edward Teller when we arrived at Teller’s home, and asked if we would be happy for him to continue to photograph Teller (and his wife) while we set up our 16mm camera and lights for the BBC interview. I can remember getting an extraordinary reaction from Teller to one of my questions, at which point Karsh gave me a thumbs up!
        I am sure Henri could add to this and would love to hear from him or Al Wertheimer our DOP.
        Warm regards
        Peter

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Susana,

    My name is Nicole Suerez and I am the granddaughter of Henri Dauman! I am currently producing a documentary about his incredible life story and photography. What you may not know is the story of his life which is just as remarkable as his influential photographic work! As you already know, Henri has produced historical photographs, and even iconic ones.

    At the age of 9 years Henri and his mother were able to escape from Paris during the 1942 roundup of the Vel d’Hiv. Henri has managed to survive all the atrocities of the war, his parents were not that lucky, leaving him an orphan at the age of 13. Alone, he only had his eyes and his vision to defend himself.

    I propose to produce a feature length documentary about his life and his exceptional professional career entitled: “Henri Dauman: Looking Up”. In addition, we will assemble and show his extraordinary group of iconic photographs created over four decades.

    To realize this dream of my life that we propose to start in April 2016, I would be very happy if you could watch our trailer and read more information on our campaign “Kickstarter”. that will help us in part to finance the project.

    http://kck.st/1PSIrME

    If you are willing and able, we ask you to contribute to this campaign or even share all the messages of the campaign on your social media accounts with your friends and relatives. Thank you in advance for joining our team and help us make this irresistible project a reality. I am at your disposal for any questions.

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    • Thanks for the message about the proposed Henri Dauman film. I will be glad to help – if only to mention the BBC film he worked on with me: Rumours of War (and an earlier Granada project: The Faces of Justice.

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