The cancellation of “Les Rencontres d’Arles” – an essential summer meeting of photography – has left a void in the French photographic landscape of 2020. Faced with the sad news, “Arles Contemporain” has mobilized galleries to organize its Festival du June 26 to September 06, 2020, in the city of Bouches-du-Rhône. An operation which brought together around sixty galleries and institutions and more than 400 artists.
Anne Clergue Gallery presents an original set of 30 photos from the 50s taken by Jacques Léonard (1909-1994). He falls in love with a beautiful gypsy, Rosario Amaya, follows her to Barcelona in 1952, his wife. He left the world of cinema (he worked with Abel Gance) and became the French photographer of the 50s of the gypsy community of Montjuic, the gadjo Chac.
The signed and numbered prints on baryta paper were made from the original negatives deposited in the Photographic Archives under the control of the Fundacion Photographic Social Vision who manages the Jacques Léonard Family Archive in Barcelona.
These archives are the most important preserved on the gypsies and their culture in Barcelona, going from 1952 until the middle of the 70s. Jacques Léonard is a witness of the life of the gypsy people from a historical and contemporary point of view by transmitting an image of absolute dignity, a real work of ethnologist.
Jacques Léonard’s work fits into the parameters of humanist photography so in vogue in the middle of the XXe century while representing the added value of showing a Barcelona that recognized authors did not grasp.
The exhibition is accompanied by works by the sculptor Marc Nucera to whom the Domaine de Chaumont sur Loire devotes a large exhibition, the gypsies of Arles from Vanessa Gilles, Cuba seen by Lorenzo Castore and vintage and Polaroids from Lucien Clergue. A colorful proposal full of surprises with the screening of artists’ films during the summer.
About the Author
Jacques Léonard (Paris 1909 – Girona 1995) was a French photographer, filmmaker, and actor. His father was a Roma horse dealer while his mother was a French designer and owner of a maison de couture in Paris. At the age of eight, he accidentally discovered his father’s background when looking at old family photographs.
Léonard began his professional career working as a film editor at the Gaumont film studios in Paris. He then joined the theatre group, Los Vieneses, which took him to Barcelona. At the end of the 1940s, he met Rosario Amaya, a Roma model for painters in the Catalonian city, and he decided to stay in Spain where he began working as a professional photographer.
Léonard worked for assorted magazines (La Vanguardia, La Gaceta Ilustrada) and was commissioned by various book publishing companies. He was a member of the nuevo avantgarde in Barcelona along with other Catalan artists. From his remarkable collection of approximately 3000 negatives (now housed in the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona photographic archive), he created documentation of Romani people living in the hilly Montjuïc region of Barcelona between the 1950s and the 1970s. These works demonstrated his professional ability and sensitivity and illustrate the immense value in documenting the everyday lives of Romani people from an inside perspective.
“In fact, this is a visual inventory of all the aspects Léonard considered essential to explain the gypsy culture to the wider public as if every topic was a chapter in the index of a book” (Jordi Calafell, curator). A documentary film about his life entitled Jacques Léonard, el payo Chac, was directed by his grandson Yago Leonard in 2011.