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Past exhibition

Terminé le 18.09.22

En dilettante. Histoire et petites histoires de la photographie amateur


Accomplished with the cooperation of La Conserverie and the collection of Michel F. David (Les Éditions Sur la Banquise), the exhibition En dilettante. Histoire et petites histoires de la photographie amateur retraces, without claiming to be exhaustive, the highlights of the history of amateur photography while showcasing family photos and the little stories behind them.

The exhibition extends from the first Kodak photographs, through a rich collection of autochromes, to panoramic views or archives of painters or members of photography clubs. Many photographs depict harmless and universally recognisable, family stories or are the outcome of someone’s first clumsy attempts at photography. Others merely show a lack of care or bear the marks of sentimental attachment. The walls of the Museum display a series of approximately 250 photographs that have withstood the passage of time and preserved fragments of history from being forgotten. The Museum simultaneously proposes a space devoted to a selection of contemporary artists for whom amateur photography was a steppingstone in their creative process. 

Whether anonymous or vernacular, amateur photography has long been regarded as the poor relation of photography; in recent decades, it has achieved the recognition it deserves – both through publications and exhibitions. The Museum of Photography has moreover given prominence to amateur photography, on several occasions, with the exhibitions Le temps retrouvé (2002), Quelque chose (2009) or L’échappée belle (2013). Almost ten years later, the Museum wished once more to devote an exhibition to amateur photography while spotlighting the gifts that join the Museum’s collection every day.

En dilettante. Histoire et petites histoires de la photographie amateur is rooted in the history of photography. From the very beginning of photography and the official announcement of its discovery in 1839, Daguerre and Arago expressed the wish that one day it might become accessible to everyone. That wish was, however, hindered by the complexity of the equipment and the space it required, together with the related costs. Fifty or so years went by before George Eastman, in 1888, was able to open the doors of photography to a wider audience and coined the famous slogan “you press the button, we do the rest”. The social class attracted by photography was broadly composed of the more affluent members of society, especially those who enjoyed a life of leisure. Advanced amateurs (often members of clubs or associations such as the Belgian Photography Association) would view (with a jaundiced eye) the emergence of a generation of photographers and would refer to them by the derogatory name of “Sunday photographers” or even “button pressers”. Artists or sculptors would also be drawn to the medium. For some of them, photography would provide support to their artistic work but also, as with other amateur photographers, creep into family life, regardless of whether they were proficient or not. As cameras gradually become simpler and become affordable for people with more modest incomes, pictures regularly feature everyday life, smiles become more spontaneous, eye contact is more direct, and poses more natural; the photographer is no longer a professional from outside the family circle, he is now a family member. In the family setting, amateurs practice photography in their spare time or as a hobby and gradually abandon technique for greater sensitivity. 



- La Conserverie, an archive facility, is a structure shared between an iconographic collection de- voted to vernacular photography, an exhibition venue, a publishing house, a resource centre and a bookshop. This facility, also known as Le Conservatoire National de l’Album de Famille, is located in Metz and was created by the artist Anne Delrez in January 2011.

- Founded in 1993 par Michel F. David, Les Éditions Sur la Banquise is a “deliberately microscopic and peripheral” publishing structure, at the origin of a score of publications around the concept of anonymity, poetry and amateur photography. In addition to these different works, the website (www. associated with this structure presents a part of the collection of vintage photographs.

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Authors: Michel F. David, Anne Delrez and Adeline Rossion Dimensions 23.5 x 30 cm. 400 pages
Co-published by the Musée de la Photographie - Editions du Caïd

With the support of 


© Musée de la Photographie