Robert Delpire, montreur d’images.

© Sarah Moon

Robert Delpire (b. 1926, Paris) broke into publishing. He had no background, no training and no experience. In 1950, as a medical student (and young amateur athlete), he took over the direction of the Maison de la Médecine magazine. He named it NEUF (as in "new") and called on well-known authors: writers like Breton, Miller and Prévert, and photographers like Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson and Doisneau. For the rest of his life, he was determined to call on the greatest writers to accompany the photographers' works.

Under the same name, NEUF, then his own, he published books that quickly made him one of the most important photographic publishers of the second half of the 20th century. We owe him Brassaï's first book, most of Cartier-Bresson's and Koudelka's, Robert Frank's Les Américains (published in 1958 and now a cult book), several books by Sarah Moon and hundreds of books by other photographers, many of which he brought to public attention.

In 1963, he created the first photo gallery to open in Paris (at the mythical address "13 rue de l'Abbaye"), and has mounted numerous exhibitions in museums and art institutions in France and abroad.

Robert Delpire and Robert Frank
© D.R.

One of his most memorable initiatives was the publication of the Spécial Photo of the Nouvel Observateur. Its format, choice of images and quality of texts make it an exceptional document in the history of photography.

In 1982, at Jack Lang's request, the French Culture Minister, he created the Centre national de la photographie (CNP) in Paris, which he directed until 1996. First at the Palais de Tokyo, then in the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, he organized over one hundred and fifty thematic and monographic exhibitions, as well as events aimed at the general public, such as the Photofolies photography festival in 1991, and the Prix Moins Trente for young photographers in 1993.

It was also at the helm of the CNP that he created "Photo Poche", the first collection of pocket books devoted to photography.

Édouard Boubat, Robert Delpire and Robert Doisneau
© D.R.

After leaving the management of the Centre national de la photographie, Robert Delpire continued his publishing career with "Photo Poche" and several new collections ("Maestro", "Des images et des mots", "Poche Illustrateur").

He is also behind a number of publications for humanitarian organizations, including the agenda for Les petits frères des Pauvres, the Amnesty International calendar, the photo album for Reporters sans frontières, and the Fait & Cause gallery opened by the association Pour Que l'Esprit Vive.

Robert Delpire's work and interests are not limited to photography. Right from the start of his career, he was also a publisher of children's books, illustrated books in several collections (architecture, "l'Encyclopédie essentielle" ... ).

In 1955, he created the visual formula for the magazine L'Œil, and remained its artistic director for eight years.

Having discovered advertising out of necessity at the start of NEUF magazine, he immediately developed a taste for it and, in parallel with his publishing activities, set up an advertising agency. Some of the campaigns he has produced (for Citroën and BNP, for example) have won him international recognition and prestigious awards.

Equally passionate about cinema, he has produced short films, two films by William Klein (Cassius the Great and Who Are You Polly Maggoo? ) and numerous advertising films.

Robert Delpire and Jacques Monory
© Sarah Moon

Finally, his interest in images has led him to publish and exhibit the work of artists he admires (and with whom he has worked throughout his life as a publisher and publicist) such as André François, Jacques Monory, Raymond Savignac, Saul Steinberg...

Robert Delpire has always had a taste for nature and the rare and singular elements to be found in gardens, parks, meadows and woods or by the sea. Since 2000, he has devoted part of his time to creating composites of natural beauty using plant, mineral and animal materials.

Michel Christolhomme