Édouard Boubat, France’s most famous romantic photographer, was born in Paris on September 13, 1923. He grew up on the Rue Cyrano-de-Bergerac, Montmartre. As the son of an army chef, he heard many tales of the Great War, in which his father served as a cook on the front lines and was wounded three times.
In 1938, Boubat attended the École Estienne, where he studied to become a photo-engraver, but in 1943, he was called up to serve two years of compulsory labour in a factory in Leipzig, Germany. Upon his return to Paris in 1946, Boubat sold his six-volume dictionary to fund the purchase of his first camera, a 6x6 Rolleicord.
Boubat’s approach to photography was deeply affected by World War II: “Because I know war… because I know the horror, I don’t want to add to it.… After the war, we felt the need to celebrate life, and for me photography was the means to achieve this.” Spanning a 50 year career, Boubat’s photographs do just that. They celebrate the beauty, simplicity, and little things in life.
His first professional photograph was taken in the Jardin du Luxembourg in 1946, “Little Girl with Dead Leaves,” a charming and magical shot. The following year, at the age of 24, Boubat exhibited the picture at the Salon International de la Photographie organized by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and was awarded the Kodak Prize. It was an amazing start to his career.
The same year that he bought the Rolleicord Boubat met his future wife, Lella, of whom he took some of the most beautiful and emblematic photographs of the 20th century.
In 1950, Boubat’s work was initially published by the Swiss magazine Caméra. Soon after, he became acquainted with the artistic director of the French magazine Realités. From then on, Boubat traveled the world for the prestigious magazine. His assignments often took him to poor and desolate regions, but Boubat still managed to capture only love and beauty. His special gift as a photojournalist was finding the common thread that linked the everyday life of people everywhere.
For Boubat, photography meant meeting his fellow man. He loved to photograph humanity; his images bear witness to the specific relationship he had with his subjects, on which he commented: “We are living photographs. Photography reveals the images within us.”
In 1968, Boubat left Realités magazine, but continued to work on an independent basis. He tirelessly sought to bring the emotion and beauty of life to our gaze. Considered an heir of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” photography, Boubat had a rare talent for capturing those fleeting, magical moments that can only be immortalized by the confident eye of a true master.
Boubat died in 1999 in Paris, leaving behind a remarkable collection of photography, on which he often philosophized: “Over a lifetime I have noticed that everything is woven together by chance encounters and special moments,” he said. “A photograph gives you a deep insight into a moment, it recalls a whole world.”