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The Market of Tourism Images

Mont Saint-Michel at the End of the Nineteenth Century
Marie-Ève Bouillon
Traduction de John Tittensor
Cet article est une traduction de :
Le marché de l'image touristique

Résumé

The industrialization of the production and business of photography occurred alongside the profound rise of the tourism industry at the turn of the twentieth century. Companies specializing in the photographic image, premised on photographic agencies, were formed in Paris, where they held a place of importance in the landscape of French tourism. How were these businesses structured, and what strategies did they employ to insinuate themselves locally, in the heart of tourist sites themselves? Can certain changes be stated in iconographic terms? The operations of the company Neurdein frères (1864-1917) and its approach to the tourist destination Mont Saint-Michel provide a revealing look at these permutations. The professionalization of tourism through the standardization of touristic mises en scène, the corporate management of photograph collections, and the endless quest for profitable images observable in this example establish the influence that the commerical structure of image-making had on the formation of a tourist identity.

Texte intégral

The author wishes to thank André Gunthert, Audrey Leblanc, Diemo Schwarz, Delphine Desveaux.

1Before the advent of the postcard in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, commercial photography of tourist sites was already a large and lucrative business. It formed part of a growing and diverse market for souvenirs – artifacts and images – at a time when tourism was being stimulated by a policy of expansion of rail and road networks and the creation of hospitality and promotion infrastructures.

  • 1 François Brunet, La Naissance de l’idée de photographie (Paris: PUF, 2000): 218.

2Tourism was not the first field to see its own photography industry take root: the Universal Exhibitions and the establishment of professional photographic networks spurred the rapid implementation of technical advances in the retail trade, triggering rivalry and vigorous competition with industrial service suppliers. ‘Giant studios’1 were set up and monopolies created. Certain names dominated the market: Braun and Bulloz, for reproduction of works of art; and Ferrier Soulier, Léon & Lévy, Neurdein and Block, for views and landscapes of France. Precursors of the photography agencies, this new kind of company, quickly became dominant, spreading into potentially highly profitable areas, such as leisure and tourism, and disrupting existing commercial modes of operation.

  • 2 The director of the prison in Mont-Saint-Michel published a guide: Guide des visiteurs du Mont Sain (...)

3Mont-Saint-Michel was a leading attraction in the period’s emergent tourism industry. But despite the early development of a tourist infrastructure,2 the trade in photographic souvenirs remained limited until 1880, when it expanded over the next twenty years. Tourists’ enthusiasm became particularly marked when the abbey ceased functioning as a prison, in 1863, and, in 1874, when the state decided to restore it. Construction of the non-submersible causeway between 1878–80 was a landmark event for the local tourist economy: by making the abbey easier to reach, it paved the way for what was to become mass tourism. Neurdein, one of the first photographic agencies, took advantage of the situation to begin operating in Mont-Saint-Michel in 1879, and the conflict this quickly generated with local photographers revealed two opposed conceptions of a radically changing market. In Mont-Saint-Michel, the commercial expansion of photography at the production and sales levels ran parallel to the ongoing diversification of the site’s tourist imagery.

  • 3 Only negatives, as a vital part of a going concern, were seen as economically worth conserving.

4What, in fact, was the impact of the emergence of these photographic agencies and their disruption of the existing market for tourist-site images? A study of the production, marketing, and industrialization of photography in Mont-Saint-Michel provides insight into the mechanism that allowed the proliferation and enduring popularity of these images, as conceived in this context by the Neurdein company. Although little of the firm’s archival material has survived3 and no trace remains of its professional guidelines, analysis of the way Mont-Saint-Michel was represented allows for reconstruction of Neurdein’s activities and throws light on its evolving practices and positions in relation to the economic issues of the image market in the late nineteenth century.

5What Neurdein did was develop visual forms tailored to the specific needs of the tourist trade, then continuously modify and adapt them in response to changes in tourism. A mass-market approach to the company’s stock of images gave rise to the standardization of photographic views that were circulated in many different forms and resulted in the stereotypical images that even today constitute Mont-Saint-Michel’s touristic identity.

The Early Photography Trade

  • 4 Alphonse Davanne, Exposition universelle internationale de 1878. Rapport du jury international, gro (...)
  • 5 Alfred Firmin-Didot, ‘Exposition de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, extrait du rapport du jur (...)

6Before the causeway was built, photographs of Mont-Saint-Michel had been taken by various Paris and local studios, including stereoscopic versions such as those of Ferrier Soulier circa 1870, Ordinaire from Dinard circa 1875, Pépin from Laval circa 1873, and Auguste Anfray from Avranches. By far the majority were panoramic views taken from the shore, with very few on the island, inside the walls, or of the village or the abbey. However, a series of photographs of the outside and inside of the monument, as well as of the abbey, was taken by Louis-émile Durandelle during the state restoration program of 1874–5. But despite their success at the International Exhibition in 18784 and the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs exhibition in 1883,5 these pictures never went on sale at Mont-Saint-Michel: they were subject to a tacit agreement with the monks from Saint-Edme de Pontigny, who lived in the Abbey, to the effect that they alone should have the right to sell photos on the site.

  • 6 Letter from Léon Laforêt-Levatois to the bishop of Coutances and Avranches, headed ‘La question mon (...)

7Thus most of the photographs of Mont-Saint-Michel were produced and sold by the Saint-Edme monks, who had moved into the abbey in 1867 with the goal of encouraging pilgrimages. Not long afterwards they realized that the sale, in their own shops, of souvenirs and photographs to pilgrims and travellers could be highly remunerative. Mont-Saint-Michel’s parish priest Léon Laforêt-
Levatois noted in 1906: ‘For more than ten years photographers were forbidden to enter the abbey with their cameras; only the monks had photographic rights and the photographs were produced by the community.’
6

  • 7 Annales du Mont Saint-Michel, vol. 1, 1874, published by the missionary fathers with the imprimatur (...)
  • 8 The statistics are drawn from Henry Decaëns, Le Mont Saint-Michel à la Belle époque (Rennes: Ouest- (...)

8The majority of the images were the work of Friar François Bidet, who systematically signed them ‘F.B.’ In terms of subject matter, these basically amateurish pictures remained fairly static over the years, but their presentation evolved. For example, the stereoscopic card entitled Mont Saint-Michel (Arrivée) offers a tightly framed view of the monument. The vacant foreground does little to enhance the mount, which seems somewhat distorted, indicating a lack of technical skill on the photographer’s part. The later carte-de-visite titled Façade (Nord) dite La Merveille once again has an empty foreground, with the two figures in the distance looking like random additions to the composition. The ‘Pèlerinage du Mont Saint-Michel’ (Pilgrimage to Mont-Saint-Michel) stamp on the back of these cards clearly indicates their function as religious souvenirs and places them in the tradition of emblems of pilgrimage. Advertisements for the photographs appeared among others for rosaries, medals, statuettes, and pilgrim shells in the magazine published by the monks,7 whose awareness of their economic value – the word ‘déposé’ (registered) on the back is a statement of copyright – made them keen to exclude any competition. All these factors point to a carefully calculated output and sales, which nevertheless remained strictly local in scale. Production of the photographs served a dual purpose, religious (for pilgrims) and profane (for tourists). Their subjects, in any case, had little to do with religious activity, the stress being, rather, on the heritage aspect. These unpopulated albumen prints were architectural in emphasis, offering a static, timeless vision that gave no hint of the seething crowds already to be found at Mont-Saint-Michel at the time. Compositionally speaking, no thought was given to tourist expectations: although the mount drew 10,000 visitors in 1860,8 tourists, fishermen, and shopkeepers are rarely visible in the photographs.

9After 1880, and despite significant competition from photographers and agencies, the images produced by the monks changed little, and this kind of photography lost momentum after their departure in 1886.

Notions of the Tourist Photography Market

  • 9 Ibid.
  • 10 Annuaire-almanach du commerce, de l’industrie, de la magistrature et de l’administration, (Paris: F (...)
  • 11 From 1864 to 1882, the agency was directed by étienne Neurdein, using the signature Neurdein or E.  (...)
  • 12 4 Rue des Filles-Saint-Thomas from 1864 to 1868; Boulevard de Sébastopol from 1868 to 1887; 52 Aven (...)

10The urge for commercial exploitation of the image of Mont-Saint-Michel only appeared after the site became easier to reach. Once it was no longer an island, the mount simply and rapidly turned into a ‘commodity.’ The coming of the train to the south side of its base in 1901 was decisive, with the number of visitors increasing from 10,000 in 1860 to 100,000 in 1910.9 These changes influenced the Neurdein family’s interest in the site, and from its beginnings as a Paris studio,10 the company grew into a full-blown business that focused on picturesque and artistic views for the tourist trade. During its period of activity, from 1864 to 1917, its commercial activities evolved in line with its changes of emphasis11 and address;12 and by the time it decided to tackle Mont-Saint-Michel in 1879, the agency had fifteen solid years of experience and an international reputation to its credit.

  • 13 Marie-ève Bouillon, ‘Le Marquis de Tombelaine: Récits et construction médiatique d’une figure du to (...)
  • 14 Letter from étienne Neurdein to the Assistant State Director of Fine Arts, and a copy of the letter (...)

11The Neurdein photographs are notable for their portrayal of the tourist’s actual experience: the arrival by small boat, horse-drawn vehicle or train, accommodations such as those at the Hôtel Poulard, and even local personalities, all of which became subjects to be photographed. Their Porte du Roi et l’Hôtel Poulard Aîné (c. 1888-1892) is enlivened by the presence of such mythic figures as the Marquis de Tombelaine13 and Mère Poulard, not to mention numerous travellers. Produced in series that represented the stages of a voyage likely to appeal to tourists, these images were bound into albums that complemented the guidebooks. The new subjects were des­cribed as ‘commercially sound’14 – that is, as representative of a tourist activity people would want to remember. Instead of images of the monument itself, Neurdein offered a depiction of tourism in action.

  • 15 ‘Among the handsome views by Mr Collard and Mr Cognacq of La Rochelle, there are some that include (...)
  • 16 Twenty-six cameras were part of the 1917 sale, including eight 13 x 18 and four 13 x 21; so we may (...)
  • 17 The term ‘picturesque’ was used in the late nineteenth century to describe that which ‘strikes and (...)

12As professionals with technical training in architectural photography15 and composition, the agency’s operators knew how to avoid the distortions visible in the work of the Saint-Edme monks. They were a link in the mass-production process of photographing cities according to Neurdein’s instructions, and from the arrival of the train to the interior of each major religious and civil monument, they followed a methodical itinerary based on existing guidebooks.16 The Vue du Nord Est (View from the Northeast), in circulation from 1882 to 1891, highlights the diagonal of the ramparts and the way it creates a visual separation between the wild coast and the village. In the foreground three fisherman – and a dog – pretend to be going about their business in a pool that reflects the monument, leaving the photographer enough time to get his shot. Their placement on different planes adds depth to the scene. By way of comparison, the same view as seen by the monks offers a deserted foreground and two distant figures whose activity we cannot make out. Neurdein’s views are compositions, ‘picturesque stagings’17 with fishermen hired as extras.

  • 18 Letter from étienne Neurdein to the assistant state director of fine arts, and a copy of the letter (...)

13But it is not only the composition that betrays a professionalized approach; the images also embody a commercial tourism system that ensured sales on-site: ‘I reproduced a number of overall and detailed views of Mont Saint-Michel. When the series was finished, I published it and put it on sale at various places, notably with retailers in the little town. This is my habitual way of doing things in all the towns I work in.’18 Production of the images was neatly integrated into the business that shaped them.

14In this sense Neurdein’s method of operation for Mont-Saint-Michel represented a new visual and structural approach to the existing market. Produced to meet commercial criteria, the views not only record tourist activities but also use careful composition to convey an idealized, charming, ‘picturesque’ vision of their subject.

15Mont-Saint-Michel then became the scene of a conflict involving two opposed notions of the photography market: that of the Saint-Edme monks, with their exclusive sales system, and the Neurdein system of producing and selling images for the tourist trade. The tensions this generated found expression in a letter of complaint from the Neurdein agency – a valuable piece of evidence, which also contains a transcription of an earlier letter from the monks – to the Assistant State Director of Fine Arts, dated July 17, 1879. The monks denounce Neurdein’s way of working, which was undermining the lucrative business they had been engaged in since 1867:

  • 19 Letter from étienne Neurdein to the assistant state director of fine arts (note 18).

16‘Before authorising you to print photographs of the Mont St-Michel monument, the Minister for Fine Arts informed me via the monument’s supervising architect, as he had already done for Mr Durandelle, photographer. I made the same requests to you as to Mr Durandelle. I asked you not to sell at Mont Saint-Michel any prints you might have made … I have since learnt that you had sold photographs of the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey to several retailers here … You have access to every part of France through your travelling salesmen. We have only the rock on which the abbey is set and we sell nowhere else. The photographs are a vital resource for us, and I request that you take this into account.’19

  • 20 Ibid.

17Neurdein opposed this monopoly, which went counter to the system the company had set up on the tourist sites. The company wanted its own place in the very heart of the monument, among the souvenir shops, so as to enable on-site sales of the photographs and other objects it was producing. The quarrel between amateurs and professionals – not to say industrial-scale photographers – became acrimonious, but the monks soon had to give in to this new economic pressure. Étienne Neurdein insisted on their difference in status: ‘They [the Mont-Saint-Michel shopkeepers] and I are legitimate business people and it is we who should, rather, be entitled to complain about competition from the monks who, as a religious order, enjoy certain privileges: unlike us they are not subject to taxes, patent fees, military service, etc., and so do not have all the necessary qualifications for legitimate business.’20

  • 21 The method’s success can be measured by the size of the company, which had as many as 150 employees (...)

18This dispute testifies to the radical shift in the closing decades of the nineteenth century between everyday commercial photography and the mass-market industrial production of images, a change whose scope went beyond the specific monument concerned. At issue was the transition from a local economy to a nation-wide industry of tourism photography; this could be seen in the gradual supplanting of amateur or even semi-professional output by larger-scale production dominated by companies based in Paris. The Neurdein campaign ushered in an era of mass production and dissemination of images, albums, and related products aimed at tourists. Although the subjects used by the agency were chosen for their commercial potential, it was above all the system of standardization and distribution of the images that ensured their prestige and economic success.21

Standardization of Tourist Imagery

  • 22 Letter of 16 January 1909, from Antonin Neurdein to Jules Roussel, assistant curator at the Musée d (...)

19Like many photographic businesses under France’s Second Empire, Neurdein had its first success with cartes-de-visite featuring celebrities and studio portraits. The move into production and sales of views of France for the tourist trade appears to have been a later commercial strategy: ‘Our company was established by my brother in 1864 and I became an associate in 1866. We began with historic and present-day portraits, continuing until 1870. In 1871 we gave up portraits completely, turning exclusively to photographic publication using the silver salts processes that were the only ones in use at the time. Our publications comprised picturesque and artistic views of France, Algeria, Tunisia and Belgium.’22

20As previously with the portrait, especially in carte-de-visite format, the business of picturesque views and landscapes for tourists meant creating and maintaining an inventory of negatives that could be reprinted on demand. Also important, however, was astutely keeping abreast of current events and their imagery.

  • 23 Titled ‘carte-de-visite’ (5 x 9 cm), ‘cabinet card’ (12 x 18 cm), and ‘large format’ (24 x 30 cm), (...)
  • 24 ‘[Landscape photography] is present on a mass scale in regions particularly favoured by tourists, s (...)
  • 25 When ‘Neurdein Frères’ (Neurdein Brothers) became an administrative and legal entity in 1887, 22,00 (...)

21The establishment of the Neurdein stock in three ‘standard’23 formats began around 1870, coinciding with the company’s move to 28 Boulevard de Sébastopol, the new north-south commercial thoroughfare created by Haussmann, Prefect of Paris. In 1878 Alphonse Davanne was already speaking of a large collection, whose distribution was particularly focused on tourist areas.24 This stock of photographs reflected the company’s standing in the market, and continued to expand as time went by.25 To facilitate its use, the collection was numbered by format, with each negative also bearing a standardized caption identifying the town or city, along with a brief description, and these formats and captions were listed in catalogues issued in 1895 and 1900. The resultant inventories of subjects and formats available first as photographs, then as postcards, functioned as promotional tools that were distributed to retailers to simplify the ordering process.

  • 26 The circuit (the order of the numbers) began with Paris, then moved successively on to the east of (...)

22The collection was built up method­ically. Each town or city was given a circuit number ranging from 1 to 195 – Paris was no. 1, Mont-Saint-Michel no. 32 – so as to locate photos and fill orders as quickly as possible. Glass negatives and prints listed in the reference albums for a specific circuit were given the same number. The numbering system followed an itinerary covering spas and seaside resorts in France,26 while also reflecting the expansion of the rail network. Circuits 1 to 103 were established by Étienne Neurdein before 1887, but 104 to 195 came later and filled gaps by sending out operators when necessary or by purchasing negatives from local photographers.

23Once the first series of photographs of a site had been taken, Neurdein regularly updated its inventory to ensure that the images provided to retailers and sold, for the most part, in the locality in question, matched what people were actually going to see. Visitors had to be able to make a place their own via images that became the medium for immediate touristic gratification. With this in mind, regular photography campaigns were carried out by the operators; Mont-Saint-Michel was the subject of at least five such campaigns between 1879 and 1906, each triggered by changes in the appearance of the monument – the addition of a spire in 1898, for instance – or by such events as the arrival of the railway in 1901 (fig. 8). Therefore, several generations of images coexist for each reference: the number corresponds to a type of image and not to a specific photograph. Reference no. 102, a Vue du Nord Est (View from the Northeast) illustrates this updating process, as well as signalling the continuity of the mises en scène practised by the operators between 1892 and 1917, which are to be understood as a standardization of camera placements.

24The various images bearing the number 102 are not dated, but the modifications of the monument permit them to be assigned to a certain time span, as is the case of the oldest one, described above and in circulation from 1882 to 1891 (fig. 9). There exist several variants of this composition, and at least two formats. The second identifiable series was carried out between 1891 and 1892 (fig. 10) and distributed until 1898, and the operator in charge of the updating campaign was well acquainted with its predecessor: the staging is the same, as are the light and the positioning of the camera. The third generation of pictures was taken after work had been done on the spire, notably the addition of a bell tower that radically changed the monument’s appearance and rendered the earlier views unusable. Dating from 1898, this new series would be used until Neurdein closed down in 1917 (fig. 11). Taken from further away, it includes only two fishermen, whose somewhat symmetrical placing echoes the triangle formed by the mount. Spread over a period of thirty-five years and probably taken by different operators, these three pictures offer a continuity of mise en scène that speaks volumes about the image’s success.

  • 27 André Gunthert, ‘L’illustration ou comment faire de la photographie un signe’, L’Atelier des icônes (...)

25Updating the views involved industrial-scale organization, especially in terms of ongoing production, and Neurdein’s repeated use of this composition reveals a company policy that was always mindful of the success of its products. These carefully constructed photographs became ‘model images,’ stereotypes maintained by both the photograph itself and its by-products. The agency marketed what André Gunthert has described as ‘off-the-peg photos, made to meet standardised requirements and limited budgets, and usable within a range of contexts’27 – which explains why they were soon taken up by the illustrated press and the postcard industry. It was not simply a matter of assembling as many visual references as possible; the point was to offer views that met specific criteria of legibility, so as to facilitate their use by all industrial media.

Profiting from the image

26From the 1870s onwards Neurdein was marketing various formats, including panoramas, in which the photographs were sometimes highlighted with watercolours or bound into ‘simple’ or ‘luxury’ albums, the latter perhaps embellished with fine gold trim. The range evolved in line with tourist demand, embracing such less conventional items as postage stamp prints (fig. 9) and illustrated writing paper. These more or less prestigious tourist products were aimed at different social categories, but the images used were the same. The company’s need to make its images profitable through recourse to all kinds of media and contexts of circulation and publication led to a repetition of mises en scène, which in turn generated stereotypes.

  • 28 Figure supplied by the Chambre Syndicale Française de la Carte Postale in 1959, quoted in Aline Rip (...)

27Improved photomechanical reproduction techniques and the advent of new items triggered by the broadening of the tourism industry brought wider circulation of these images. Increased productivity and the cheapness of printed photographic views influenced the Neurdein brothers’ output: in 1883 to 1887 Antonin Neurdein was selling photographically printed notebooks, and in the 1890s phototype postcards gradually replaced the film version (fig. 12). With its extensive backlog, the company maintained a dominant position on the image market. Thus the practices stayed the same, but the scale of circulation changed considerably; in 1905–6 production of postcards in France, then at its peak, reached 600 million.28

  • 29 Georges Goury, ‘Le Krach de la carte postale,’ Revue illustrée de la carte postale, no. 63 (25 Marc (...)
  • 30 M.-èBouillon, ‘L’utilisation des photographies d’agence par l’édition touristique,’ Photogenic, 2 (...)
  • 31 ‘Our many publications covering 110,000 subjects are an invaluable resource for publishers, offerin (...)

28The changes the success of the postcard brought to the image market would in turn alter the way companies used their stocks. The golden age of the postcard was succeeded by a period of overproduction known as the ‘Great Postcard Crash,’29 which led to intense competition among publishers. Setting out to widen their market and diversify their products by resorting to their stock of negatives, Neurdein Brothers became a fully functional photography agency, supplying big publishing houses and the press, as well as looking for profits in the photographic illustration field.30 Offering a catalogue of quickly and diversely usable images at attractive prices,31 they now shifted towards the provision of services to other businesses.

  • 32 Thierry Gervais, L’Illustration photographique. Naissance du spectacle de l’information, 1843-1914 (...)

29Their stock of images was now used more widely and more freely. The image of the fishermen at Mont-Saint-Michel (reference no. 102, fig. 11), for example, was doctored to create a fake event for the benefit of postcard-buying tourists (fig. 12). The subjects of the images were also adapted to a specific commercial aim: marking an event that might trigger the desire to consume. Cashing in commercially on their inventory of images therefore hinged on using the same ones repeatedly. Just as the illustrated press used photographs to construct a narrative in images,32 the new industries of professional tourism illustration recycled their stock by processes of modification, assemblage, and tweaking. After 1905, Neurdein realized it had to come up with original postcard subjects to set the company apart from the competition, opting in particular for photomontages. This kind of publication moved away from traditional photographic reproduction in an unambiguous shift towards illustration. One sampler-type postcard from this period sums up the tour of Mont-Saint-Michel in a selection of the firm’s most popular images – its ‘stereotypes’ – presented as vignettes with embellishments in the form of flowers and other ornamentation (fig. 13). Postcards like this introduced a new formal approach that filled the demand for a composite overview of a tourist visit, a successful initiative that lives on in the postcards of the present day.

30The profit potential of the negative was a precondition for photographic mass production. A core concept since the Neurdein brothers’ move into tourism, it took on different forms that were adapted to the variety of items produced from the same images; and then, after the coming of the postcard, in the use of the image in a context of photographic illustration.

31The big photographic agencies had no difficulty in establishing themselves as key players in the tourism industry, since they were perfectly aligned with the tourist business in their evolution towards industrialization and mass-marketing based on supply and demand. The history of Neurdein at Mont-Saint-Michel is testimony to the ineluctable transition from an image economy to a market economy in the late nineteenth century, that is, from local to national control of touristic imagery.

32While Neurdein’s methodical approach to the creation of its stock was the prime factor in its dominant position in the tourist image market, it was its management of that stock, combined with the creation of an entrepreneurial photography-agency model, that ensured the company’s durability and set it apart from the competition.

33Neurdein’s visual documentations gave shape to the tourist experience, and this was what underlay their success: through these photos each visitor sought to celebrate his or her own trip to Mont-Saint-Michel. Sold in vast quantities at the site itself, these images and the items they were added to were offered as souvenirs and adapted to the varied tastes of different publics. As produced by the Neurdein Brothers’ operators according to their directives, the composition of the photographs reflected a professionalized approach and made possible a consistent mise en scène. Standardization practices meant that images reflecting present conditions at the site and changes within society were always available from the company. After the success of the postcard, the agency turned towards diversification of the use of its images by, among other things, offering its services to other sectors of industry. Its own productions then began to borrow from the practices of photographic illustration – photomontage, special effects – via recycling of its images.

34And so the repeated, organized, and massive circulation of a product – the photographic image – led to the imposition of a characteristic visual representation of the tourist site, sometimes at the cost of stereotyping it. The development of this representation was also, therefore, the consequence of a dominant system of industrial mass-production.

Notes

1 François Brunet, La Naissance de l’idée de photographie (Paris: PUF, 2000): 218.

2 The director of the prison in Mont-Saint-Michel published a guide: Guide des visiteurs du Mont Saint-Michel et du Mont Tombelaine, notes recueillies par M. Régley, directeur de la maison centrale (Avranches: 1849 and 1856).

3 Only negatives, as a vital part of a going concern, were seen as economically worth conserving.

4 Alphonse Davanne, Exposition universelle internationale de 1878. Rapport du jury international, groupe II, classe XII. Les épreuves et les appareils de photographie (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1880), 45.

5 Alfred Firmin-Didot, ‘Exposition de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, extrait du rapport du jury des industries du papier,’ Bulletin de la Société Française de Photographie 29, no. 9 (September 1883) : 243. These photographs were also published in édouard Corroyer, Guide Descriptif du Mont Saint-Michel (Paris: Ducher, 1883).

6 Letter from Léon Laforêt-Levatois to the bishop of Coutances and Avranches, headed ‘La question montoise’ (The Mont-Saint-Michel Issue), 10 February 1906, archives of the diocese of Coutances.

7 Annales du Mont Saint-Michel, vol. 1, 1874, published by the missionary fathers with the imprimatur of the bishop of Coutances and Avranches.

8 The statistics are drawn from Henry Decaëns, Le Mont Saint-Michel à la Belle époque (Rennes: Ouest-France, 1985), 46.

9 Ibid.

10 Annuaire-almanach du commerce, de l’industrie, de la magistrature et de l’administration, (Paris: Firmin Didot & Bottin Réunis, 1865). The studio grew out of a collaboration with a Paris photographer, then in 1866 ‘Neurdein, portrait cards of historical personalities and present-day celebrities, stereoscopic views, 8 Rue des Filles St Thomas.’ Founded by étienne Neurdein (1832–1917) in association with his younger brother Louis-Antonin (1846–1914).

11 From 1864 to 1882, the agency was directed by étienne Neurdein, using the signature Neurdein or E. Neurdein; from 1882 to 1887 by Antonin Neurdein, signature A. Neurdein; from 1887 to 1915 by the two brothers, signature Neurdein frères; and from 1915 to 1917 by étienne Neurdein and Antonin Neurdein’s widow, signature Neurdein et Cie (Neurdein and Company). Subsequent to the death of étienne Neurdein on 2 December 1917, the firm was sold to the Crété printing company on 1 January 1918. All ND et LL Réunis (Neurdein and Léon Lévy Réunis) signatures are after the sale of the company in 1918.

12 4 Rue des Filles-Saint-Thomas from 1864 to 1868; Boulevard de Sébastopol from 1868 to 1887; 52 Avenue de Breteuil from 1887 to 1917; and an annex for postcard production in Rue Miollis, from 1900 onwards.

13 Marie-ève Bouillon, ‘Le Marquis de Tombelaine: Récits et construction médiatique d’une figure du tourisme au tournant du xxe siècle,’ Photogenic, 19 March 2011, http://culturevisuelle.org/photogenic/archives/5.

14 Letter from étienne Neurdein to the Assistant State Director of Fine Arts, and a copy of the letter of 17 July 1879 from Robert, superior of the Saint-Edme community. Archives of the Commission for Historical Monuments, Architecture and Heritage Media Library, Paris.

15 ‘Among the handsome views by Mr Collard and Mr Cognacq of La Rochelle, there are some that include sloping lines. These photographers could have avoided this by adopting a better position, by using scaffolding or even, as Mr Neurdein does, by resorting to very tall stands equipped with a ladder, together with sufficiently wide-angle lenses for the cameras to be placed off-centre and thus include the high sections of the monument without having to be tilted.’ In A. Davanne, Exposition universelle internationale de 1878 (note 4), 45.

16 Twenty-six cameras were part of the 1917 sale, including eight 13 x 18 and four 13 x 21; so we may assume that there were eight to ten photographers. ‘Report on the merchandise sold by Neurdein & Co. to the Crété printery, inventory of 31 December 1917’: notary at Corbeil, deed of sale of 29 May 1918, archives of Louis Cros.

17 The term ‘picturesque’ was used in the late nineteenth century to describe that which ‘strikes and delights both the eyes and the mind’: excerpt from the entry ‘Pittoresque,’ in Encyclopédie du dix-neuvième siècle: répertoire universel des sciences, des lettres et des arts (Paris: Au Bureau de l’Encyclopédie, 1870–1872), 522–3. With his balanced compositions – using carefully positioned figures – and his use of reflections, Neurdein was out to charm the future tourist-purchaser.

18 Letter from étienne Neurdein to the assistant state director of fine arts, and a copy of the letter of 17 July 1879 from Robert, superior of the Saint-Edme community. Archives of the Commission for Historical Monuments, Architecture and Heritage Media Library, Paris.

19 Letter from étienne Neurdein to the assistant state director of fine arts (note 18).

20 Ibid.

21 The method’s success can be measured by the size of the company, which had as many as 150 employees in 1909 and a stock of over 300,000 images in 1917.

22 Letter of 16 January 1909, from Antonin Neurdein to Jules Roussel, assistant curator at the Musée des Monuments Français, for the obtaining of the Legion of Honour. Archives of the Commission for Historical Monuments, Architecture and Heritage Media Library, Paris.

23 Titled ‘carte-de-visite’ (5 x 9 cm), ‘cabinet card’ (12 x 18 cm), and ‘large format’ (24 x 30 cm), these categories were later complemented by panoramas (25 x 90 cm).

24 ‘[Landscape photography] is present on a mass scale in regions particularly favoured by tourists, such as picturesque localities and watering places from which travellers enjoy bringing back accurate mementoes. In his exhibition Mr Neurdein showed many highly impressive examples of his large collection of views of France and Algeria.’ In A. Davanne, Exposition universelle internationale de 1878 (note 4), 46.

25 When ‘Neurdein Frères’ (Neurdein Brothers) became an administrative and legal entity in 1887, 22,000 negatives of thirty cities in France, Algeria, and Tunisia were part of the company’s capital. By 1895 the figure had risen to 30,000 and by 1908 to 120,000 – the result of a massive output of postcards – and by 1917 to 320,000. Sources: Contract for the creation of the Neurdein company, dated 18 March 1887, minute books of Paris notaries, ET/LVIII/976, National Archives, Paris; Neurdein frères, Extrait des collections photographiques de Neurdein Frères: vues de France, Algérie, Tunisie, Belgique, Suisse, Fuenterrabia et San Sebastian (Paris: Neurdein Frères, 1895); Correspondance de Neurdein frères avec le sous-secrétaire d’état aux beaux-arts, 18 December 1908, Neurdein dossier, documentation division, Musée d’Orsay, Paris; ‘État des objets mobiliers, matériel et clichés dépendant du fonds de commerce vendu par la société Neurdein et Cie à l’Imprimerie Crété,’ notary at Corbeil, 29 March 1918, archives of Louis Cros.

26 The circuit (the order of the numbers) began with Paris, then moved successively on to the east of France, the north, the major coastal cities from Dunkirk to Nantes, a few cities in the centre of the country, then the big coastal cities from La Rochelle to Menton.

27 André Gunthert, ‘L’illustration ou comment faire de la photographie un signe’, L’Atelier des icônes, 12 October 2010, http://culturevisuelle.org/icones/1147.

28 Figure supplied by the Chambre Syndicale Française de la Carte Postale in 1959, quoted in Aline Ripert and Claude Frère, La Carte postale, son histoire, sa fonction sociale (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1983), 43.

29 Georges Goury, ‘Le Krach de la carte postale,’ Revue illustrée de la carte postale, no. 63 (25 March 1905): 595–98. The period was thus described by Georges Goury, editor in chief of this postcard magazine; the term reflected a slowdown in sales brought on by overproduction due to competition from amateurs.

30 M.-èBouillon, ‘L’utilisation des photographies d’agence par l’édition touristique,’ Photogenic, 21 January 2011, http://culturevisuelle.org/photogenic/archives/31.

31 ‘Our many publications covering 110,000 subjects are an invaluable resource for publishers, offering them a large number of inexpensive illustrations … they would never be able to obtain quickly except at very high prices.’ Letter of 16 January 1909, from Antonin Neurdein to Jules Roussel, assistant curator at the Musée des Monuments Français, for the obtaining of the Legion of Honour. Archives of the Commission for Historical Monuments, Architecture and Heritage Media Library, Paris.

32 Thierry Gervais, L’Illustration photographique. Naissance du spectacle de l’information, 1843-1914 (doctoral thesis in History and Civilization, EHESS, Paris, 2007), 310–14.

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Marie-Ève Bouillon, « The Market of Tourism Images  », Études photographiques, 30 | 2012, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 02 juillet 2014. URL : http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/3485. consulté le 29 mars 2017.

Auteur

Marie-Ève Bouillon

Marie-Ève Bouillon is completing a doctoral dissertation on the role of photographic images, and their diffusion, in the creation and persistance of touristic models — or stereotypes — of France, 1870-1917, at the Laboratoire d’histoire visuelle contemporaine, EHESS (Paris), under the direction of Christophe Prochasson and André Gunthert. She worked at the l’Atelier de Restauration et de Conservation des Photographies de la Ville de Paris (ARCP) for nine years, before taking charge of the presidential photography collection at the National Archives. She currently works for the mission de la photographie at the National Archives.

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