I came across the photographer Lucien Herve while reading about the Swiss/French Architect Le Corbusier. Herve, a Hungarian by birth, born in 1910, changed his name several times, but settled on Lucien Herve while working with the French resistance. Herve had moved to France at the age of 19, the country became his home for the rest of his life. During the war he had been arrested by the Nazi’s and escaped from a prion camp continuing to work in the resistance up until the end of the war.
Herve did a number of jobs before becoming a photographer including working in the fashion industry and as a scenery painter in theatres. He worked as a photographer for a number of magazines, but it was a series of images he made of the ‘Unite d’Habitation’, a large housing complex in Marseilles, that caught the attention of the Architect, Le Corbusier. Seeing Herve’s images Le Corbusier employed him as his photographer.The pair worked together for 16 years up until Le Corbusier death in 1965.
In addition to his architectural photography Herve also made portraits of a number of well known figures including; Jean Cocteau and Henri Matisse.
Looking at Herve’s images of buildings and structures he creates a sense of the modern, he emphasises shape, form, modernity and whilst creating some quite abstract images does not loose the sense that these are space for people to live.
Viewing the work with a 21st century eye there is something stark and austere, but the 21st century viewer carries information about the social challenge and indeed catastrophe of some types of tower block living, but in the context of the time they were made there was probably something very hopeful and optimistic in the futuristic lines and curves he isolated and accentuated.
Herve’s work is almost all made under natural light and he use of contrast to create a sense of shape. Having spent time looking at his work I intend to create some new images in my ongoing project to document Brutalist architecture under threat. I’m also going to try and use some of this influence in my rework of assignment 4.
Koetzle, H-M. (2011) Photographers A-Z , Taschen, Gmbh
Herve Family Website: http://lucienherve.com/LH.html (accesed Febr 2016)