NORBERT GHISOLAND

PORTRAIT 57777

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The artist

Behind Norbert Ghisoland's black-and-white images lies a strong sense of brotherly loyalty, with the aim of showcasing the majestic body of work left behind by his father and grandfather. No less than 45 000 images on glass plates were found in the family attic, representing the phenomenal extent of the photographer's talent. Born in 1878 in La Bouverie, Belgium, Norbert Ghisoland inherited the photographic equipment destined for one of his brothers who had died. The younger son was initially a carpenter, then trained with Charles Galladé from 1897 to 1900 to become a photographer in turn. Until his death in 1939, Norbert Ghisoland was to capture his contemporaries in his boutique, Grand'Rue, in Frameries, which now constitutes an exceptional and moving heritage collection. Besides the sociological, historical, and ethnological interest, his art of the collective portrait, which has more than one parallel with the work of August Sander, won over connoisseurs with its structural coherency. It gradually came to be presented from 1991 onward thanks to exhibitions held in France, Greece, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and notably in 2013, when it was exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale after being discovered by Cindy Sherman.  ... See more See less

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About the artwork

Norbert Ghisoland took photographs during the years 1920-1930 of the population of Frameries in the Belgian region of Borinage where his studio was located. This former mining area survived through coal extraction and created both the wealth of its owners and the poverty of a working class that laboured under the difficult conditions of coal. As a village photographer, Norbert Ghisoland saw all of the social classes come and go, and notably the class that he had sought to flee, as he was himself the son of a miner. Newborn babies, cyclists, newlyweds, multi-generational families, boxers, farmers, soldiers, all are present in their Sunday best, dressed for the special ritual of having their photograph taken in his old-fashioned studio. The photographer unquestionably demonstrated great finesse in offering the freedom to express themselves to each of his models, to try their luck at assuming real stature before the lens. His formal rigour and technique lent his photographs a density that his descendants found moving and that commanded the respect of the world of photography. He accumulated over 90 000 images without ever attempting to order them, nor even perform selections among them, and of which only half were to be preserved.

Artwork details

Date photograph was taken

27 July 2017

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