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The Color of May 1968

Paris Match and the Events of May and June 1968
Audrey Leblanc
Traduction de James Gussen
Cet article est une traduction de :
La couleur de Mai 1968

Résumé

In mid-May 1968, the Syndicat du Livre (Printers Union), to which the majority of the workers in the printing plants and paper industries belonged, joined the general movement. This meant the strikes now directly affected the news magazines of the time, in particular Paris Match, which ceased publication for four consecutive weeks. When the leading weekly news magazine of the day returned to the newsstands, it went back over events that dated in part from one month earlier. On June 15, the editors constructed a retrospective narrative of ‘May ’68’ in an issue that presented a historicizing reading of the spring’s events, despite the fact that some of the movements in question were still underway. Reinforced by a formal presentation that was highly unusual for the magazine – a departure partially necessitated by disruptions connected with the strikes taking place at the printing plants – this media construction reveals the effort that went into designing the issue as a whole. It thus helps to show how the magazine’s editorial and ideological aims were expressed in the narrative presented as well as in the formal decisions supporting it, the two aspects working together to produce an overarching media system: the forme magazine.

Texte intégral

The author would like to thank Bernard Perrine, former editor in chief of the magazine Le Photographe; Dominique Brugière, lab assistant at Paris Match from 1965 to 1971; and Sébastien Dupuy, editor in chief of the Sygma Initiatives photography collection at Corbis, for the wealth of information they so generously provided to her in interviews; and Thierry Gervais, André Gunthert and Gaby David for their advice in the writting of this article.

1Syndicat du Livre (the Printers’ Union) joined the call that went out for a general strike and mass demonstration to be held on May 13, 1968. Most of the workers in the printing plants and paper industries were members of this union, leaving the editors of the French news magazines L’Express, Le Nouvel Observateur, and Paris Match with immediate disruptions of their printing and distribution. The three weekly magazines reacted in different ways to these social and political developments. These reactions affected their financial situation along with the so-called photojournalism news. While L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur displayed a willingness to adapt and shared some of the movements’ fundamental political positions, Paris Match ceased entirely its publication for four consecutive weeks. When it resumed publication on June 15, the magazine picked up its coverage of events where it had left off on May 18. By then, the status of those events had changed: if in mid-May they were considered news, in mid-June they already belonged to the past. In its June 15 issue, Paris Match offered a retrospective reading of the 1968’s spring events, as if they had already come to an end. This narrative was conveyed in a formal layout of black and white images that revealed – and reinforced – the magazine’s support for General Charles de Gaulle on the eve of the first round of the June legislative elections. This use of black and white photography – unusual for the magazine, which normally published in color – tells the story of the obstacles its editors faced in designing and producing the magazine. An analysis of the choices the magazine made reveals the economic and ideological issues that came into play in covering the events of May 1968.

The Magazine’s Editorial Conventions Overturned

  • 1 Philippe Artières and Michelle Zancarini-Fournel, eds., Mai 68, une histoire collective [1962–1981](...)

2In early May 1968, the entire French press reacted sharply to the dramatic confrontations between students and police that had taken place on May 6 at the Sorbonne.1 They were front-page news in the newspapers and the subject of multi-page articles in the news magazines, which were dominated at this time by L’Express, Le Nouvel Observateur, and mainly Paris Match. Each of these publications had its own editorial conventions, especially regarding the use of black and white or color photography. While L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur were predominantly black and white, Paris Match was highly colorful. A large-format magazine with a cover in color, it varied in length between 150 and 180 pages, only half of which were printed in black and white. A third of the magazine consisted of ads while the rest contained news reports and articles on current events. Acquired by Jean Prouvost in 1938, the sports magazine Match had resumed publication as a news weekly in 1949, and right from the start it set itself apart from other magazines by publishing in color.

  • 2 Guillaume Hanoteau, La Fabuleuse Aventure de Paris-Match (Paris: Plon, 1976), 39–40. See also Jean- (...)
  • 3 ‘Covering an event in color makes it important … [T]he result of all these constraints is a natural (...)

3The former journalist Guillaume Hanoteau described this decision, which he viewed as typical of the audacity of the team that had put out the magazine, in this way: ‘The board had decided to launch Paris Match by devoting a number of the magazine’s pages to color photographs. It was a real innovation. The Match of the prewar years had never used color … But in 1950 they wanted to surprise people, give them a shock. It was a bold move, since the techniques for producing and publishing these photographs was still little known in France.’2 At least one of the articles listed on the cover was always illustrated in color inside the magazine – a treatment that denoted a high ranking in the hierarchy of the news.3

  • 4 ‘The other general news magazines (Le Monde illustré, Point de vue, Images du monde) quickly felt t (...)
  • 5 Jean-Louis Gazignaire and Hubert Henrotte, eds., Le Monde dans les yeux. Gamma-Sygma. L’âge d’or du (...)
  • 6 Ibid., 19, 21, 27, 60, 72, and chapter 8, ‘Roger Thérond, le géant de Paris-Match’ (77–87).

4The magazine’s increasing technical proficiency in color publishing became an essential element of its coverage of current events. Paris Match was an immediate success, and by 1968 it had become the clear first choice among readers, with a circulation three times larger than any of its competitors.4 It played an equally important role in the professional world of the day, as suggested by Hubert Henrotte,5 who at the time was the manager director of Gamma and later, from 1973, of Sygma, two of France’s leading photo agencies. In his memoirs, Henrotte rarely mentions the names of the magazines in which the agency’s news reports and photographs were published, with the notable exception of Paris Match; publishing there consistently signified success for the photographer in question as well as for the agency itself, and could even ‘make’ their reputations.6 Paris Match established itself both as the magazine of reference and also as a prestigious and rewarding platform for publication photographer’s images. In the spring of 1968 it dominated the news magazines’ field and distinguished itself by its consistent use of color.

5After the first ‘night of the barricades’ on May 10, all three magazines devoted, for the first time, their leading stories – including cover photographs – to the so-called ‘student’ events. These similar and simultaneous reactions (all their covers featured photographs of the confrontations between students and police) reflected the importance they ascribed to those events. Each of them adhered to its own familiar set of conventions (regarding text, images, and layout) in its coverage, with articles in black and white for Le Nouvel Observateur and L’Express; cover in color for L’Express and Paris Match; and a combination of color and black and white illustrations for Paris Match, which touted its difference from its competitors with the headline: ‘La révolte des étudiants – Couleur nos documents photo’ (The Student Revolt – Our Photos Are in Color).

  • 7 In order to ensure that a variety of information sources would continue to be available, the striki (...)

6In response to these confrontations, which were extraordinary to say the least, workers officially joined the protest movement at the big demonstration of May 13. When the call was issued by the Printers’ Union, which was dominated by the CGT (Confédération générale du travail), workers from the paper industries and the printing plants also got mobilized, launching a movement that took its place in a long tradition of struggle and protest. Both the Printers’ Union workers’ and the paper industry’s involvement in the larger social movement disrupted the press’s production lines, affecting, particularly, the printing and distribution of magazines.7

  • 8 ‘Declaration of the Staff of L’Express: This week’s issue of L’Express will not be coming out due t (...)
  • 9 ‘As a natural consequence of the events that are currently taking place, we have been forced to del (...)

7From this point onward, the three magazines ceased to react to the movements in the same way, and the differences between them were reflected in their coverage of current events. L’Express maintained its weekly publication schedule until May 20 (issue no. 883), at which point it published a special supplement in the same format and on similar paper as the daily newspapers – three sheets and a cover in black, white, and red. The supplement contained an insert from the editors explaining that these disruptions in the magazine’s publication were a consequence of the strikes, which the magazine supported.8 L’Express did not appear regularly until June 17. Le Nouvel Observateur continued to publish weekly until May 22. Delayed and headlined ‘Le Grand Chambardement’ (The Great Upheaval), issue no. 184 included an insert with an explanation from the editors.9 Printed in Germany and presented as a special issue, no. 185 was dated Thursday, May 30, 1968, and consisted of three folded sheets, or sixteen pages. The following issue, dated Friday, June 7, did not mention where it had been printed and was only half of the magazine’s customary length (32 pages). It was not until June 12 (no. 187) that Le Nouvel Observateur resumed its regular weekly publication schedule.

  • 10 ‘Right from its inception, Paris Match has been driven by a great ambition: refusing to court popul (...)
  • 11 ‘It would be an understatement to say that May 1968 was a catastrophe for Paris Match. Because of t (...)

8Paris Match, on the other hand, ceased publication entirely between May 18 and June 15. When it returned to the newsstands, it included a special insert next to the table of contents, where the editors explained the reasons for its sale price increase and also took the opportunity to recall the magazine’s mission. However, no mention whatsoever was made of the reasons for its long absence from the newsstands.10 While L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur had voiced their support for the strikes, Paris Match did not even allude to them, except to express its gratitude to those who lent their support during what was clearly experienced as a trying and difficult ordeal;11 the only acknowledgement of why the magazine had interrupted its regular publication schedule was a reference regarding subscription problems.

9All three magazines thus reappeared in mid-June, when the strikes in the printing plants ended. L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur resumed their familiar editorial line, noting – and featuring on their covers – the strikes that were then underway, the approach of the legislative elections, and the onset of a period marked by debate. Indeed, L’Express headlined its issue of June 17 ‘Vive et à bas’ (Hurrah and Boo!), then put a wheel of fortune into which political candidates’ faces had been inserted, on the cover of the following issue. For its part, Le Nouvel Observateur, in its issue of June 12, ran the headline ‘Les insurgés de la TV’ (The TV Insurgents), followed by ‘Mendès-France, JP Sartre, Kartler’. Paris Match, in its June 15 issue, set itself apart in its coverage of events with the headline ‘Journées historiques’ (Historic Days). Strangely enough, starting with its cover – a black and white photograph of the events of the first night of the barricades, May 10 – it presented as ‘news’ events that dated, in some cases, from more than one month earlier.

Relegating Contemporary Events to History

10The June 15 issue of Paris Match (no. 998) took up where the issue of May 18 had left off. One month earlier, the magazine had featured a lengthy twenty-three-page report on the ‘student’ events (then contemporaneous with the publication), focusing on the most dramatic: the first night of barricades and the confrontations of May 6. Despite the fact that negotiations were underway at a number of factories, that strikes still continued at others (the Renault and Citroën factories, ORTF, for example), and that the legislative election campaign had begun, in mid-June Paris Match published an issue on the events of spring 1968 that was constructed in the form of a final assessment.

  • 12 A report that Xuan Thuy, the chief negotiator for the North Vietnamese at the Paris peace talks, ha (...)
  • 13 Except for half a page on the Roland Garros tennis tournament.
  • 14 There are also three pages vaunting the new Pernod factory in Marseille which are mixed in with adv (...)
  • 15Paris-Match finally came out with a special issue about this crazy crazy month.’ Jean Durieux and (...)

11In 1968, the layout of Paris Match generally followed specific patterns that could be altered as necessary to accommodate breaking news. Because of the imposed limitations by the sheet-fed printing process, each issue’s regular features were arranged on either side of the pivotal double-page center-spread. Although adapting to create an issue entirely devoted to the events of ‘May ’68,’ issue no. 998 adheres to this structure. The series of color and black and white advertisements that usually serve to open the magazine are omitted, and the issue begins with the table of contents, immediately followed by the column ‘Le Match de la vie – Le Monde/la France’ (The Match of Life – The World/France), which was normally set off by red highlights and the use of matte paper. Here that format is abandoned, and the column is entirely given over to what is described by the magazine’s cover headline as ‘Ces vingt journées incroyables de mai 1968 qui ébranlèrent la France et le gaullisme’ (Those Twenty Incredible Days of May 1968 That Rocked France and Gaullism to Their Foundations). No other current event, domestic or international, is reported in these pages, as was usually the case.12 Similarly, the six culture pages that correspond to this column at the end of the magazine – ‘Le Match de la vie – à Paris’ (The Match of Life – in Paris) – are devoted to the upheavals that cultural institutions have had to contend with as a result of the protest movement (among others, Cannes Film Festival, Théâtre de l’Odéon, ORTF13). Of the one hundred sixty-six pages that make up the issue, fifty (pages 55 to 105) deal with what is listed in the table of contents as the focus of the column ‘Match actualité’ (Match Current Events): reporting on ‘Les Journées historiques – des barricades aux élections’ (The Historic Days – From the Barricades to the Elections). Finally, the middle of the magazine usually contains a succession of news stories: in this issue, only eight pages are devoted to images recounting Robert Kennedy’s assassination in the United States on June 5.14 Organized around sixty pages of news reports in the middle of the magazine (pages 55 to 114) – fifty of them on ‘May ’68’ – which are flanked by a similar number of pages of advertisements and the regular columns that begin and end the magazine, the June 15 issue of Paris Match accords an extremely prominent place15 to the events of that spring, establishing their importance and monumentalizing them.

  • 16 Paris Match, no. 998, June 15, 1968, p. 55.

12Under the headline The Historic Days – From the Barricades to the Elections, the magazine offers an account of a period of transition, which had already ended by then, which places the events of spring 1968 in historical context. By June 15, ‘May ‘68’ has already passed into history. In fifty pages of articles, Paris Match offers a retrospective reading and reconstructing of these ‘historic’ days in a series of nine linear and chronological chapters. The ideological orientation is clear, and the narrative fulfills the promise made by the cover, recounting the transition from a situation characterized as anarchic and insurrectional – the ‘barricades’ – to the return of an orderly democracy worth its name – the ‘elections’. Every one of these chapters is punctuated by double-page photographs, each of which is individually listed in the table of contents. After a look back at the first night of barricades, May 10, the narrative is organized around the following episodes. 1: ‘Grand défilé du 13 mai’ (The Great March of May 13); 2: ‘La grève s’étend’ (The Strike Spreads); 3: ‘La Sorbonne ouverte à tous’ (The Sorbonne Open to All); 4: ‘Les jeunes redescendent dans la rue’ (Young People Return to the Streets); 5: ‘Accords rue de Grenelle’ (The Grenelle Agreements); 6: ‘Le gouvernement est sombre’ (The Government is Somber); 7: ‘Marée tricolore aux Champs-Élysées’ (Blue, White and Red Sea on Champs Élysées); 8: ‘Flins, bataille dans les blés’ (Flins-sur-Seine: Battle in the Wheat Fields); 9: ‘Encore une ”nuit terrible’” (Still Another ‘Terrible Night’).16

  • 17 This retrospective construction also enables the magazine to use the photojournalistic material tha (...)

13Each of these episodes is constructed around events that are carefully selected and characterized by the editors. The number of pages and photographs devoted to each event and the layout of the photographs attest to the importance ascribed to it by the magazine. Ten double pages – almost half of the report – are devoted to the nights of dramatic confrontations and to the anti-establishment and even subversive character of the students’ demands. Two double pages trace the entire wave of strikes beneath the headline, The Strike Spreads, emphasizing the failure of students and laborers to unite and stressing the stalemate in the Grenelle agreements. On the other hand, the retrospective narrative grants a privileged place to Charles de Gaulle’s figure. In an entire double page, and following a photograph of the government in a state of complete disarray at the National Assembly, is Henri Bureau’s exclusive photograph. This photograph portrays the president at the heliport in Issy-les-Moulineaux, dated on May 29, 1968, when he returned from Baden-Baden after his ‘disappearance’. By arranging the pages in this way, the magazine frames the president’s return as a response to the government’s political confusion. The three double pages that follow are devoted to the demonstration in support of the president on May 30, and further reinforce the narrative’s political orientation. The events that took place after that date are presented as irrelevant after-effects. The narrative concludes with a night photograph that takes up two-thirds of a double page, showing young people dancing around a fire beneath the caption: ‘La campagne électorale débute par une danse autour de panneaux en feu’ (The election campaign begins with a dance around burning electoral billboards). Similarly to the photographs of the burning barricades, this image fosters confusion between the two acts and suggests that the young people have no respect for democracy. The final image in this retrospective, on the eve of the first round of the legislative elections of June 1968, is a double-page photograph showing Daniel Cohn-Bendit in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin with a suitcase in hand, captioned, ‘Et maintenant il part prêcher l’anarchie à travers l’Europe’ (And now he’s off to preach anarchy all across Europe). Without any mention of the political debates that were currently underway as a result of the protest movement, the assumptions and structure of this account merely offer an assessment of a brief episode, which, though described and depicted as subversive, is now over.17

  • 18 To adopt the expression used by Thierry Gervais, ‘L’Illustration photographique. Naissance du spect (...)
  • 19 Headline of issue no. 997, May 18, 1968.
  • 20 This cover design was used on two other occasions. See note 21.

14The ideological biases that are legible in the narrative’s construction are also reinforced by its visual arrangement.18 The Algerian War, invoked numerous times in other articles (in particular in the preceding May 18 issue of the magazine), serves as a point of comparison with the ‘révolte étudiante’ (student revolt).19 At a time when the legitimacy of the president and the government was being challenged, such a parallel was far from being innocuous. The issue of June 15 (no. 998) also raises this political allusion with its layout choice. Its cover design is similar to that of the issue devoted to ‘La Rébellion d’Alger’ (The Rebellion of Algiers), which featured a wide black banner containing the headline in capital letters, accompanied by a black and white photograph.20

  • 21 All the covers of Paris Match since 1949 may be viewed online at http://paiement.parismatch.com/com (...)

15This formal similarity evokes a link between these events, a fact that is also reinforced by the headlines. The issue of May 6, 1961, carries the headline: ‘Ce que vous n’avez pas pu voir. Un témoignage pour l’histoire. De l’aube du putsch au soir de la reddition. La Rébellion d’Alger’ (What You Couldn’t See. A Witness for History. From the Dawn of the Putsch to the Night of the Surrender. The Rebellion of Algiers). In late April 1961, the French army officers failed an attempt to carry out a coup d’état in Algeria, an event that was from then on called:‘the Generals’ Putsch’ or the ‘Algiers Putsch.’ In the issue of May 6, 1961, the editors of Paris Match had presented images and a historical reading of the putsch in the form of a retrospective. The term ‘rebellion,’ which is questionable from a historical perspective, and which was chosen for the cover in 1961, encourages an ideological – and no longer purely formal – identification of the attempted putsch with the events of ‘May ’68,’ which are also presented in terms of revolt and insurrection. Texts, layout, and images all work together to construct a partisan account of the events. In the issue no. 998, the only accompaniment to the fifty pages devoted to the events of spring 1968, is Robert Kennedy’s assassination report, which, in this context, reinforces the tragic version of the ‘rebellions’ that the state must face. These connections turn the Algerian War and ‘May ’68’ into two separate challenges – rendered equivalent by similar treatment – that the Gaullist government had to confront. On top of this, the narrative is even more reinforced by the choice of a black and white image for its cover. For Paris Match, the use of a black and white cover photograph was extremely rare and always conveyed an emphasis on the historic importance of the events in question.21 All aspects of the June 15 issue conspire to entomb within history events that were actually still taking place, and bear witness to the magazine’s support for General de Gaulle, on the eve of the first round of the legislative elections.

Transforming a Technical Obstacle into an Editorial Asset

16Within the context of the printing-plant strikes, the question of publishing in color or in black and white has to be reconsidered under the light of the technical constraints imposed on the magazine’s editors as a result of the social movements.

  • 22 Paris Match published a number of color photographs in its May 18 issue (no. 997) and many more in (...)

17In the June 15 issue (no. 998), only the advertisements in the magazine that had already been previously published (and for which therefore the magazine already had its printing plates) are in color. The red highlighting in the news column ‘Le Match de la vie’ has disappeared, and the two news reports are illustrated entirely in black and white. This treatment was highly unusual for the magazine, which normally published color photographs to highlight the events it considered important and in this case actually had numerous color photographs of those events.22 The Chaix-Desfossés-Néogravure printing plant, with which the Prouvost press group was working in 1968 – specifically its headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux – was one of the most important printing plants of the time:

  • 23 According to Robert Codineau’s inventory (in 1981–82) of a portion of the archives of the Comité d’ (...)

18‘In the 1970s and 1980s, Néogravure was a polygraphic printing plant: it used both the photogravure and the offset processes. As a commercial printing plant, it printed no newspapers … but specialized primarily in “periodicals,” including Elle, Marie-Claire, Paris-Match, Lui, Play Boy [sic], Le Chasseur français, Le Catalogue de la Redoute…It was the largest French printing plant of its day and the third largest in Europe and had the most modern photogravure equipment of any European printing house.’23

  • 24 In late May and early June, there was a dramatic increase in the number of documents and appeals co (...)

19In mid-May the printing plant went on strike, as attested by a press release dated May 13, 1968 (CGT – FSM) and signed by the ‘élus des deux collèges des établissements de St-Ouen et d’Issy’ (Elected representatives of the two local unions of St-Ouen and d’Issy). Following the ‘Grenelle agreements,’ which concluded in late May, the dispute grew increasingly bitter,24 and the initial draft agreements were not signed until, first, June 8 and 9, and then June 14 and 15 – the latter date being the same day on which Paris Match resumed its publication with the issue no. 998.

20The printing plant’s list of positions suggests that while color and black and white printing were carried out in the same plant, the two processes were done by different teams. Black and white printing was the first to resume, while color printing, because it was more complicated, was still suspended: this was the technical difficulty that helps to explain why the issue no. 998 represents an exception to the magazine’s standard practice regarding its illustrations.

  • 25 A similar construction would not have been possible for L’Express or Le Nouvel Observateur, which w (...)

21As a result of technical constraints that were beyond its control and that interfered with its editorial conventions and compromised its strength as a magazine, when it resumed publication in mid-June, Paris Match had no choice but to cover the news in black and white. This technical obstacle, affecting the magazine’s format, was added to the other issues at stake in its reappearance, both financial (four weeks without publication) and ideological (the desire to support General de Gaulle). The decision to build issue no. 998 around a fifty-page retrospective indicates a pragmatic editorial response to a set of necessities. It enabled the magazine to utilize the photojournalistic material that had been accumulated during the intervening weeks. It also permitted the magazine to construct a historicizing narrative of contemporary events whose logical outcome should be General de Gaulle’s reelection. And finally, this strategy enabled the magazine to attribute a meaning to the practical necessity of printing in black and white. It was through this special black and white ‘May ’68’ issue, so unusual for Paris Match, that balck and white became the color of History.25 From then on, the use of black and white was no longer perceived as a technical constraint but rather as an opportune way for the editors to construct a narrative. The limitations of black and white, which in theory should have weakened the magazine, were turned into an editorial asset, and a temporary restriction became a measure of the magazine’s efforts to find appropriate forms to convey information.

  • 26 That is, the total media system made up of the narrative of events and the formal choices with whic (...)

22‘Toutes les photos’ (All the Photos): this was the headline on the cover of the June 15, 1968, issue of Paris Match (no. 998). The editors of the magazine made no mention of the fortuitous and frustrating technical obstacle that lay behind the formal aspects of the coverage of events. They embraced that obstacle by making it function in the overall context of the other decisions governing the issue’s design. A choice made under duress – the use of black and white – illuminates the complexity of a larger whole: the magazine. The illustrations, only circumstantially in black and white become one element in a multifaceted construction: texts, images, and layout that support and reinforce an ideological interpretation of the events. By documenting those events in the form of a well-organized retrospective narrative, already commemorative in tone and conveyed in a format and with iconography that in this context may be read as historicizing, the entire forme magazine26 of this issue of Paris Match ensnares May ’68 in history’s net. ‘All the Photos’ – one might almost add: ‘to understand and remember “May ’68” for a lifetime.’ The issue seems almost like a souvenir album of the events published by the leading and most influential French news magazine of its time. Who knows how persuasive and durable an impact such a slickly efficient media artifact may have had on the interpretation of these historic events?

Notes

1 Philippe Artières and Michelle Zancarini-Fournel, eds., Mai 68, une histoire collective [1962–1981] (Paris: éditions La Découverte, 2008), 215.

2 Guillaume Hanoteau, La Fabuleuse Aventure de Paris-Match (Paris: Plon, 1976), 39–40. See also Jean-Marie Charon, La Presse magazine, Collection Repères (Paris: éditions La Découverte, 2008 [first ed. 1999]), 13.

3 ‘Covering an event in color makes it important … [T]he result of all these constraints is a natural impediment to its use. Color is a luxury.’ Dominique Brugière, a lab assistant at Paris Match from 1965 to 1971 (from January 1968 to April 1969 he was doing his military service in the Antilles), interviewed October 1, 2009, in Paris.

4 ‘The other general news magazines (Le Monde illustré, Point de vue, Images du monde) quickly felt the effects of the competition from Match. Right from the very first issue, it was clear that its ambition was to create a modern illustrated weekly, open to news from around the world and printed in color … [It] became a mass-circulation weekly magazine targeting the broader population and was the only publication of its kind in the 1950s, with a circulation reaching 1.8 million in 1957.’ Thierry Gervais and Gaëlle Morel, ‘Les formes de l’information. De la presse illustrée aux médias modernes (1843–2002),’ in L’Art de la photographie, des origines à nos jours, ed. André Gunthert and Michel Poivert, 338 (Paris: Citadelles et Mazenod, 2007). In the 1960s, the circulation of the other weekly news magazines was only a third that of Paris Match (between 300,000 and 600,000); see Jean-Marie Charon, La Presse magazine (note 2), 13. (L’Express, for example, reports printing 512,000 copies of its issue May 6, 1968, no. 881.)

5 Jean-Louis Gazignaire and Hubert Henrotte, eds., Le Monde dans les yeux. Gamma-Sygma. L’âge d’or du photojournalisme (Paris: Hachette Littératures, 2005).

6 Ibid., 19, 21, 27, 60, 72, and chapter 8, ‘Roger Thérond, le géant de Paris-Match’ (77–87).

7 In order to ensure that a variety of information sources would continue to be available, the striking workers saw to it that the newspapers were able to continue publishing.

8 ‘Declaration of the Staff of L’Express: This week’s issue of L’Express will not be coming out due to technical difficulties at the printing plants and press distribution services. In the historic hours through which France is currently passing, the entire magazine staff – employees, managers, and journalists – was nonetheless determined to be present by authoring, printing, and distributing this special supplement, just as we were present at the popular demonstration of May 13. Supporting the fundamental aspirations of both the students and striking workers, the entire staff of L’Express felt it was their duty to continue participating through expression as through action to/in the new movement of people and ideas by publishing this special supplement.’ (‘Déclaration des collaborateurs de ‘L’Express’. Le numéro de ‘L’Express’ de cette semaine ne paraît pas, en raison des difficultés matérielles dans les imprimeries et les messageries. Dans les heures historiques que traverse la France, tous les collaborateurs du journal – employés, cadres et journalistes – ont tenu à être cependant présents, par la rédaction, l’impression et la distribution de ce supplément spécial, comme ils ont été présents à la manifestation populaire du 13 mai. Solidaires des aspirations fondamentales exprimées par les étudiants et les travailleurs en grève, tous les collaborateurs de ‘L’Express’ ont estimé qu’il était de leur devoir de continuer à participer, par l’expression comme par l’action, au mouvement nouveau des idées et des hommes, en faisant paraître ce supplément exceptionnel.’) L’Express, page 2 of the special supplement published between nos. 883 (May 20–26, 1968) and 884 (June 17–23, 1968).

9 ‘As a natural consequence of the events that are currently taking place, we have been forced to delay publication of the Nouvel Observateur for the second time. Our support for the vast national protest movement and our active sympathy for the intellectual and manual workers on strike are such that we are more than willing to share in the common fate. We would, however, like to thank the hundreds of friends who were upset at the thought that we might be unable to make our voice heard at a moment when conditions are becoming so serious, and when we are one of the very few magazines to have informed the public objectively since the beginning of the events.’ (‘Les conséquences normales des événements actuels nous ont conduits pour la seconde fois à retarder la mise en vente du Nouvel Observateur. Notre solidarité avec l’immense mouvement national de contestation, et notre sympathie active pour les travailleurs intellectuels et manuels en grève sont telles que c’est avec sérénité que nous partageons le sort commun. Nous voulons pourtant remercier les centaines d’amis qui se sont émus à la pensée que nous puissions être mis dans l’incapacité de faire entendre notre voix à l’heure où les circonstances deviennent si graves, et après que nous ayons [sic] été l’un des rares journaux à informer objectivement l’opinion depuis le début des événements.’) Le Nouvel Observateur, no. 184, May 22–28, 1968, p. 23.

10 ‘Right from its inception, Paris Match has been driven by a great ambition: refusing to court popularity with sex and violence, it has strived to produce a highly cultured magazine that offers a faithful and dignified picture of the world to the broad masses of the French people. Paris Match has also endeavored to remain accessible to the greatest possible number of French readers by keeping its price as low as possible without compromising its quality. New expenses have now forced Paris Match to raise its price to 2 francs. We wish to assure our readers that there is no other way for Paris Match to continue to be true to its calling and its mission. We have been especially touched by the expressions of sympathy we have received from our readers and advertisers, as well as by their advice. We are deeply grateful to them. [In smaller print:] We apologize to our subscribers; it goes without saying that they will receive a four-week extension of their subscriptions.’ (‘Dès sa naissance, ‘Paris-Match’ a conçu une grande ambition. Tenant à l’écart la démagogie du sexe et du sang, celle de faire un magazine de haute culture apportant aux couches profondes de la France une image fidèle et noble du monde. ‘Paris Match’ s’est également efforcé de rester accessible au plus grand nombre des Français en maintenant son prix de vente au niveau le plus bas possible compatible avec sa qualité. Les charges nouvelles contraignent ‘Paris Match’ à élever son prix de vente à 2 francs. Nos lecteurs doivent être convaincus qu’il n’existe pas pour ‘Paris Match’ une autre manière de rester fidèle à sa vocation et à sa mission. Nous avons été particulièrement sensibles aux témoignages de sympathie que nous avons reçus de nos lecteurs, nos annonceurs et de leurs conseils. Qu’ils en soient remerciés. [en plus petit] Nous nous excusons auprès de nos abonnés et naturellement leur service sera prolongé de quatre semaines.’) Paris Match, no. 998, June 22, 1968, p. 3.

11 ‘It would be an understatement to say that May 1968 was a catastrophe for Paris Match. Because of the general strike, the magazine didn’t come out for four weeks; its extraordinary wealth of photographs gathered dust, and its reporters covered the events with their spirits at an absolute low ebb, slaving away for nothing: history was unfolding before their eyes and they were forced to be silent.’ Nicolas de Rabaudy, Nos Fabuleuses Années Paris Match (Paris: Scali Document, 2007), 168–69. May ’68 also marks the end of the collaboration of Jean Prouvost and Roger Thérond, who clashed over the possible formation of a journalists’ association at Paris Match.

12 A report that Xuan Thuy, the chief negotiator for the North Vietnamese at the Paris peace talks, had moved out of Hotel Lutetia at Choisy-le-Roi was the issue’s sole reference to international news.

13 Except for half a page on the Roland Garros tennis tournament.

14 There are also three pages vaunting the new Pernod factory in Marseille which are mixed in with advertisements and come close to being an ‘advertorial,’ pp. 13–15.

15Paris-Match finally came out with a special issue about this crazy crazy month.’ Jean Durieux and Patrick Mahé, Les Dossiers secrets de Paris Match (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2009), 135.

16 Paris Match, no. 998, June 15, 1968, p. 55.

17 This retrospective construction also enables the magazine to use the photojournalistic material that has accumulated as events continued to unfold, thus satisfying its economic needs and allaying the frustration of its photographers. See note 11.

18 To adopt the expression used by Thierry Gervais, ‘L’Illustration photographique. Naissance du spectacle de l’information (1843–1914)’ (doctoral dissertation in Histoire et Civilisation, EHESS, 2007), chapter 4, ‘L’invention du magazine, les nouvelles formes de l’information (1898–1914)’. Available online at http://culturevisuelle.org/blog/4356 (last visited May 19, 2010).

19 Headline of issue no. 997, May 18, 1968.

20 This cover design was used on two other occasions. See note 21.

21 All the covers of Paris Match since 1949 may be viewed online at http://paiement.parismatch.com/commande_numero/journal_commander.php?texte=1968&separ=OR&encadrement==&champs0=05/08/2008&x=0&y=0 (last visited on May 1, 2010).

22 Paris Match published a number of color photographs in its May 18 issue (no. 997) and many more in the issues that followed (nos. 999 and 1000), which were also largely devoted to the events of May.

23 According to Robert Codineau’s inventory (in 1981–82) of a portion of the archives of the Comité d’entreprise de la Néogravure (1946–79), which may be consulted at the Centre d’histoire sociale du xxe siècle, Université Paris 1. They are also available in the Center’s bulletin, no. 6, 1981–82, pp. 87–103, and online at http://histoire-sociale.univ-paris1.fr/Document/gravure.htm (last visited on January 31, 2010).

24 In late May and early June, there was a dramatic increase in the number of documents and appeals connected with the mobilization. The conflict continued to be referred to as the ‘movement of May/June 1968’ (mouvement de mai-juin 1968).

25 A similar construction would not have been possible for L’Express or Le Nouvel Observateur, which were used to publishing their illustrations exclusively in black and white. Moreover, the decision to break with stand­ard practice by using a black and white photograph for the cover also placed this issue in the tradition of a handful of earlier issues, since this was a format the magazine used from time to time (see note 21).

26 That is, the total media system made up of the narrative of events and the formal choices with which it is interwoven. See André Gunthert and Thierry Gervais, ‘Les Images publiques ont une histoire,’ Études Photographiques 20 (June 2007): 2–3. Available online at http://etudesphoto­graphiques.revues.org/index894.html (last visited May 19, 2010); and T. Gervais, L’Illustration photo­graphique (note 18) p. 404, 418-452.

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Audrey Leblanc, « The Color of May 1968 », Études photographiques, 26 | novembre 2010, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 03 juin 2014. URL : http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/3456. consulté le 28 mai 2017.

Auteur

Audrey Leblanc

Audrey Leblanc is currently preparing her doctoral dissertation in visual history on ‘L’image de Mai 68’ (The Image of May ’68) at the Laboratoire d’histoire visuelle contemporaine (Lhivic) at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) under the direction of André Gunthert and Michel Poivert. She leads the doctoral workshop Questions méthodologiques d’histoire visuelle (Methodological Issues in Visual History) at Lhivic/EHESS and is a member of the editorial board of the teaching – and research – oriented social networking platform Culture visuelle (Visual Culture, www.culturevisuelle.org). In 2009, she co-edited issue no. 6 of the journal Conserveries Mémorielles on La Part de fiction dans les images documentaires (The Fictional Element in Documentary Images). She teaches history of photojournalism in the Cultural Mediation Department at the Université Paris 3.

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