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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment


Paul Geniaux

Chiffonniers - Paul Geniaux

c. 1900
black & white silver print
Paris, Musée Carnavalet
© Paul Géniaux / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

View this work in the exhibition Les Chiffonniers

The artist

Paul Géniaux, originally from Rennes, moved to Paris with his elder brother Charles when very young. His brother, who is better known, seems to have cast a shadow over the biography of his younger sibling, so details of Charle's life remain hazy.

Both were photographers. Paul's work in Paris is documented until the 1930s. He is known for a very beautiful series of photographs on daily life in Paris at the beginning of the century. During his periods in Brittany, especially in the Morbihan, he produced photo reports, some of them no doubt commissioned by publishers.

Like Puyo or Demachy, Paul Géniaux turned his attention to craftspeople and small street traders. Distancing himself from the esthetic of the pictorialists, Paul Géniaux, like Eugène Atget, became immersed in social issues, producing images that reflected them which were not lacking in poetry. Men and women in the workplace particularly inspired him, in canning factories, salt pans, slate quarries or working as street traders; these were his models. To the realism of his images Paul Géniaux always added careful framing and a vital measure of warmth and humanity.

Biographical details provided by the scientific committee of the FRAM (Regional Fund for Museum Acquisitions) of Brittany