Willy Ronis

Willy Ronis is a key figure in the history of French photography. He was born in Paris in 1910 in the family of Odessa emigrants. His father kept a photo workshop and Willy helped him with printing and retouching from a very young age. He was fond of drawing and music, often visited the Louvre museum, studying masterpieces of the old masters. At the age of 15 he received a Kodak camera as a gift from his father and began photographing.

Becoming a talented violinist, Willy Ronis found similarities between music and photography. He said that three planes in one picture are like three different melodies in a fugue, which are combined together to bring the separate parts into harmony. In 1932, Ronis's father fell ill. This made Willy give up music and go into business in the studio.
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"I remember all my photographs, my life is woven from them and sometimes, of course, they have something in common over the years. They wink, talk, they exchange secrets.."

Willy Ronis early photo works are more of the reportage genre and are dedicated to civil unrest, street demonstrations and the rise of the Left Front in France. But most of all, he was remembered for his romanticized vision of Paris and its inhabitants, becoming the leading master of French humanistic photography.
He wandered on the streets of Belleville and Ménilmontant, camera in hand, capturing spontaneous moments. But Ronis is not a detached and impartial street photographer. His images are imbued with a sense of closeness and sympathy, as the author knew and understood the Parisians very good.

In 1985, Willy Ronis began working on his photo archive to select what he considered the essence of his work. He collected six albums, which thus constitute his "photographic testament".

Willy Ronis was not only taking pictures, but also taught photography, and awarded numerous awards. He died in Paris on September 12, 2009 at the age of 99. He said that almost all his photographs are random. That photographs come from random glances, random beams of light, and a thousand stories. So you just should not forget to take your camera.
Willy Ronis wrote a book about photography: "Ce jour-là" ("On this day") - a book in which he leafs through his favorite photographs year after year, as he never parted with a camera during 89 years out of 99 he lived, and where he recalls how and where each one was made.
Les Amoureux de la Bastille, 1957
Below is the story of creation of one of the most famous photographs ("Lovers of the Bastille"):
"I remember that I climbed to the very top of the column, the light was beautiful - winter January light, especially white. I followed the light, as it often happens, and took one of my most beautiful shots that went around the whole world. I loved coming to the column, coming quite often - from there such a beautiful view over Paris.
Alone, I finished a series of photographs and was about to go home when suddenly I noticed a couple admiring the view. I managed to capture them at the moment when the young man kissed his companion on the forehead, with incredible tenderness. I believed they were foreigners for a long time, until in 1988 I found out that they were the owners of a small cafe-tobacco next door and hung my photo on the wall of their cafe.."
Author Anna Laza
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