Hélène’s odyssey, a life documenting the world
Galerie Roger-Viollet, in Paris (1)
Intending to journalism, it is by the coincidences of history that Hélène Roger-Viollet entered fully into photography. For her first report, she goes by bicycle with her future husband Jean-Victor Fischer to follow the “paid holidays” in the Andorra valley. In July 1936, they cross the Catalan border clandestinely: they find themselves in the middle of the war in Spain that they will be the first to photograph.
Their photos were published all over the world, a success that led them to devote themselves to photography. If Hélène had never dreamed of making a profession, she is not a novice: her father Henri Roger-Viollet, an enlightened amateur, introduced her early to his art, and the paternal collection will enrich the collection of images of the agency that she opened in 1938, at 6, rue de Seine in Paris.
War declared, she closes shop and leaves as a reporter in North Africa to document the aid of the colonies to France. At the Liberation, the couple inventoried the consequences of the war in France and then continued to travel to the four corners of the world, Rolleiflex slung over their shoulder, to complete their collection. If all their production is indistinctly signed Roger-Viollet, Hélène’s work shows an artistic sensitivity, a sense of framing and light that distinguish her photographs from those of her husband.
Visionary and astute businesswoman, collector, tireless traveler, Hélène met a tragic end in the back of her agency: in January 1985, she was murdered by her husband, who hanged himself in his cell. Upon their death, the City of Paris inherited the agency and its unique collection of 6 million images, of which nearly 600,000 were produced by the couple. With the opening of the gallery, the public now has the opportunity to purchase prints on site, to choose from among the nuggets from the entire collection.