25 Years Later – by Xavier Bénech

Is it possible to be influenced by a photographer whose work you barely know? It’s a strange question and yet, it applies to myself personally with the work of Jean Dieuzaide. French photographer from Toulouse, his work introduced me to the world of photography, though it was not his photographic work but rather his work for photography that got me hooked.

In 1973, Jean Dieuzaide created the galerie municipale du Château d’eau, in Toulouse; the first permanent gallery dedicated to photography in France. Located on the edge of the Garonne, an old water mill that provided water for Toulouse’s fountains it was in this gallery that he organised more than 200 exhibitions featuring some of the most recognised photographers from around the world.

25 years later, in1988, 20-year-old me was setting foot in the Gallery for the first time and it was in that moment that my love affair with photography began. I spent hours in the documentary section reading about photographers and photography techniques that I did not always understand. During one of these long sessions in the gallery, I remember sitting with a book on photographic film chemistry in my lap and coming to the realization of my abyssal lack of understanding on the subject. But I was just a simple spectator back then.

Now, almost 25 years later, with my 20’s far behind me and having crossed over to the other side, I realise that I barely know the photographic works of Jean Dieuzaide. You’d think that with Internet it would be easy to fill in the gaps, but actually, it’s surprisingly difficult to find sites showing his work.

Jean Dieuzaide was born in 1923 in Grenade sur Garonne, Toulouse. He became a photographer just before the beginning of the Second World War and managed to gain recognition after the war for his work on Toulouse’s Liberation and more specifically thanks to a portrait of the Général de Gaule that became his official portrait.

His family was not thrilled with his profession and as a result, he adopted the alias ‘Yan’ which he used until 1971.  A large part of his work was focused on the south-west of France, Portugal and Spain where an exhibition entitled: “El país que va fascinar Jean Dieuzaide” (the country that fascinated Jean Dieuzaide) was shown in the Ethnographic Museum of Valencia. He is mainly recognised for his still-life, architectural, aeronautic and above all humanist photography but also his life-long dedication towards promoting photography.

The above is what you’ll find after a 5-minute google search. But, if you take the time to go deeper, you’ll discover that his work was complex, profound and consisted in a rare diversity that spanned from humanist photography to pure aesthetic research. It is not surprising then, that in 1970, he participated to the first edition of the Rencontres Photographiques de Arles and that he was invited to participate many more times thereafter.

One of his most emblematic portraits is undoubtedly the one of Salvador Dali but, personally, I prefer his more humanist portraits like “the little girl with a rabbit” (1953) in which the composition and use of light are reminiscent of classical paintings.

(Re)Discovering his abundant, multidirectional work at a time in which I am embarking on my own photographic adventure is a highly refreshing experience in this period where the leitmotiv is to find your own style and where Instagram is full of photographers imitating photographers and repeating image after image. It serves as a reminder that photography is not a straight highway in which you can’t deviate from, but rather a vast country full of diversity and offering countless possibilities for detours.


Xavier Benéch is one of our students and an emerging photographer. He joined us on our photo tour to Cuba and will be exhibiting his photographs of Cuba in a solo exhibit at the Raw Streetphoto Gallery in Rotterdam, Netherlands and will be featured in a joint exhibit at the Txalapata Museum in Athens, Greece.

Check out Xavier’s work on Instagram 

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