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Faces and hands

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/Julia Pirotte
opening: 14.10.2016 (Friday), at 6 pm to 8 pm
exhibition open until 11.12.2016

Julia Pirotte – a photographer, still not quite well known, but her major works are still discovered although were created half a century ago. She was a reporter who fixed on a film significant moments and personalities from the European history in the first mid of the 20th century; and a perceptive documentarian who could not walk unconcernedly by human harm.

Originally exhibition "Faces and hands" was prepared at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. This is an institution where shortly before her death Pirotte brought her photographs, mostly taken in the 40s and 50s of the 20th century. This is a collection which is a document of Europe in a unique time. Pirotte was called "photographer of Marseille resistance" – as a member of the Resistance, an active insurgency, while a photographer. In the same period, also performed hundreds of photos, which today we would call socially involved – showing the Belgian Jews just before deportation to Auschwitz, miners' wives, anonymous Marseille beggar, old women and children. In 1946 was created the most famous and most tragic cycle of Julia Pirotte – as a member of the Military Photographic Agency she was sent to Kielce in July, to document the victims and participants of the pogrom against the Jews. She was the only photojournalist who had the opportunity to take pictures in the city in that time.

Julia Pirotte: The term “committed photography” wasn’t known to me at that time. My photographs were made spontaneously, born out of an inner need. As a human being and a photographer, I couldn’t ignore the important events I was witnessing. Could I just pass by without capturing the concerned faces of the miners’ wives in Gardanne? The sad, distrustful faces of the kids I met in the narrow, winding streets around the Old Port? The weary gazes of the women queuing up for hours in front of a butcher shop or bakery? Could I not have photographed scenes that formed an integral totality of wartime life?

Regardless of whether it was occupied France or rebuilding post-war Poland, Pirotte was photographing the everyday life of ordinary people with passion and a huge tact. Her art most fully expressed in the portraits. She had a chance to take pictures of celebrities of his time – Édith Piaf, Pablo Picasso, Christian Berard, Paul Eluard – but above all, drew the camera lens towards the smallest, most vulnerable, the weakest, thrown to the margins of social life. For her, "another face" means much more than a face you look – says Teresa Śmiechowska from the Jewish Historical Institute.

Julia Pirotte (Gina Diament)
Photojournalist. Born in 1907 in Końskowola, Poland, died in 2000 in Warsaw.
She grew up in an impoverished Jewish family. In 1934 she emigrated to Belgium where she married Jean Pirotte and obtained Belgian citizenship. There, she studied journalism and photography. In 1939 she started to cooperate with the media agency Foto Waro, to which she created a photo reportage from the three Baltic countries: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Soon after the German invasion on Belgium in 1940, Pirotte emigrated to southern France. There she played an important role in the local resistance movement. She smuggled weapons, forged documents and underground publications. At that time, she would work as a photojournalist. Pirotte also took photographs of Jewish women and children in the transit camp in Bombard where they were kept just before being transported to Auschwitz. She created several series of photographs documenting everyday life under the Vichy government. In 1943 she sent her photo reportage on the France under occupation off for publication the USA. As a member of the Marat FTP-MOI (Francs-Tireurs et Partisans - Main-d’œuvre immigrée) campaign, Pirotte had the opportunity to photograph the activities of Maquis resistance groups in the summer of 1944. She also documented the liberation of Marseille.



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